Friday, 25 May 2012

Is it ok to grieve?

It was just gone 7.00am, spring in my step,sun shining,a beautiful start to the day.  I'm about to set off for my first visit of the day. The mobile rings. I'm told to cancel the visit..... the service user has died.

No other information was given. No details. No sincereity. From the progammers view, it was a case of 'cross off the timesheet for the rest of the week.'

Sounds cold for a caring profession eh? I agree, however from their point of view they have a job to do and  visits to cover at very short notice or to cancel. 

Of course I had to carry on with the rest of my morning visits.Being cheerful and positive for others while I helped them get ready for the day. I had to keep this sad news to myself and get used to the idea very quickly of not seeing this person again.

I had been in most days for the past nine months and I had been in the previous day. A normal visit, nothing out of the ordinary and oh how quickly it all changed. Even though death was expected at some point, it still threw me.

So, how was I going to deal with this? First off, I wasn't going to cross them off my timesheet until the end of the week! My little way of recognising them as a person and not just a name on a list.Secondly, I would attend the funeral.Thirdly, I'm gonna have a good cry.

The only support I got from colleagues was at a meeting in the afternoon. It went along the lines of..Who was the last to see them- did they look-fine...Are you ok-yes...Moving on, about elastic stockings...! That was it! No offer of talking to a supervisor if  I needed, no offer of anything.

Definately on my own with this one. So, I'm here to put the record straight.

Yes I cried. Yes I thought about this person and their young family. Yes I went to the funeral.
I allowed myself to grieve, albeit in my own time.

It was ok, behind close doors no one was going to judge me or tell me Im not tough enough.I questioned my own morality, I wondered if I had done enough in the visits, I hoped the family didn't think I was being rude by not sending a condolence card (I was told it was not the thing to do and not part of the job- too personal).I did want to talk about it to someone at work but it wasn't going to happen.

This was my first experience of a death in my job. Sadly, one of many over the years. I learnt how to cope with it and kept it on a private and personal level. For each person, I had always gone home and lit a candle. I would admit to myself any sadness I felt and if I needed to cry I would.

“It's so curious: one can resist tears and 'behave' very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer... and everything collapses. ”



  1. Reading this bought tears to my eyes. My first experience of death at work was minutes after the person had died. I was caring for a husband and wife. Fred had'nt been well for a few days, so I popped in as I was passing. Officially I was'nt due there until teatime. As I walked through the door his daughter was coming out, she said Fred had just died, I did'nt know what to say, I sort of froze, should I go or should I stay, I did'nt want to intrude, but she said, "please go in and see Mum".
    Freda was laying in her bed, looking across at Fred in his. Fred looked like he was asleep. I sat with Freda holding her hand, neither of us spoke. The room felt calm and peaceful. I stayed with Freda until her daughter came back into the room, she had phoned for the family to gather and the Doctor was expected to confirm the death. I expressed my condolences and quietly left.
    Outside everything felt unreal, as if I was looking at life from inside a bubble, time seemed to have slowed, I did'nt know what to do. Like you fluffy wings, there was no one at work to talk to. So I too went home and shed tears for a person I had come to respect as he had borne his illness with dignity and quiet bravery. This feeling stayed with me for several days, until (for want of a better word) normality resumed.
    I think it is ok to grieve.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your experience.It is a sensitive area to approach. It seems you turned up at the right time.You have shown consideration and respect for the whole family. Im sure being with 'Freda' in that short time gave her support she needed....very often words aren't required.Im sorry you were unable to find support for yourself, sometimes its nice to be able to share with others who also new the person. Lovely to hear from you and you are always welcome here.