I have worked in the Emergency Room for 25 years in is not uncommon to have to witness or engage with death. I would say that at least monthly I have taken care of someone that dies or discuss the death of a patient with another nurse. I think accepting death as a natural process of life has gotten easier. When the patient is older and has had a good life it is easy to assist in the death experience for the patient and family. If the patient in younger it is more difficult. I had a recent experience where a Tongan family brought in a 9 month old that did not wake up from his nap. The patient was obviously dead with rigor already setting in. This was a hard situation because the family was very vocal in their grief and guilt. They felt as though God was punishing them. I knew this could potentially be a life altering experience for the parents. I allowed as much time to grieve as possible. I brought the baby swaddler to them so they could hold their son. I also assisted in the parents in making hand and foot molds of the baby. This was an exhausting effort and I spent hours talking and helping this couple. After 5 hours they were able to walk the baby out to the van so that it could be taken to the medical examiner. I do not know how helpful this process was in the later grieving for this family. I know that initially it was a good experience for me to help them through the anger and denial of death.
I feel as though death has a terrible sting and that words cannot take away the pain of that moment. Compassion and caring are the only way to really help someone start the grieving process and to move forward in the direction of living without a loved one. Allowing the patients family to see that you cared about the patient as a human being is important not just as another number or disease.
I think the experience with death in my job and made me want to quality and quantity time with my family. My spiritual and religious beliefs are that we live again after this life and we are in families but there is still a period of time in which we do not get to see our loves ones. I have a daughter that we have dealt with death because of some chronic heart conditions and neuromuscular disorders. She has had 2 situations where we did not think she was going to live. These situations helped me grow closer to God by trying to understand the process of living and dying. Also I have aging parents and in the last 2 years my father has been given a terminal diagnosis, it is really hard to watch the super hero of your childhood become frail and weak. When I look into his eyes he is still the same super hero his body has just given up o him. We have talked many times of dying and what it means. I am comforted by the knowledge that he is not scared about the prospect and that he is ready to make the change whenever God is ready