For Medical Providers
As a medical provider, you may find yourself at a loss to help parents process their grief and answer questions. There are resources available for you to use for your own education. They can also be easily printed and shared with caregivers when it feels appropriate. Losing a patient is never easy. The emotions you feel after a loss may be personal and painful. Often times, you have cared for and invested countless hours with families. Other times the loss may be sudden and unexpected. Processing the loss of a patient takes time.
Caring for Yourself
- You are entitled to grieve. As a healthcare professional, the death of any patient can lead to trauma particularly when it is the death of a child.
- You may need a few minutes alone before walking into the next patient’s room. It is ok to take some time to process what just happened.
- Have a plan and make time to debrief with someone who cares. Whether you talk to a co-worker, meet with a chaplain, or find a therapist, have an outlet for your emotions. A listening ear and compassionate heart is invaluable. This Bereavement Debriefing Outline can be helpful if your team decides to debrief together.
- Even in death, there can be beauty. What are some positive aspects of this situation can you hold on to? Having a meaningful relationship with the family, working with coworkers as a team, being instrumental in making sure the child died in a respectful way, and providing legacy items to the family through handprints and footprints are all beautiful outcomes of a terrible situation.
- When possible, make an effort to attend calling hours, funeral services or the hospital memorial service to reconnect with families. If you had a close relationship with your patient, this can be important for both you and the bereaved family.
What Grieving Families Want You to Know
- Bereaved parents often suffer a double loss: the loss of their child and the loss of the medical community who supported and took care of their child. Parents may feel the need to have closure with the medical team and a chance to say goodbye. You may feel this need also. Proactively reaching out can help with closure.
- If a bereaved parent returns to the hospital, this visit may be part of their grieving process. If possible, go out of your way to give a hug and warmly greet the bereaved family even if you don’t know what to say.
- After the death of a child, medical professionals may avoid a bereaved family out of fear and uncertainty. Overcoming feelings of regret and reaching out to bereaved families with a card or a phone call will mean the world to a grieving parent.
- Bereaved parents never mind hearing their child’s name. It’s ok to bring up the child who died and compassionately use the child’s name in conversation. This can be a gift to a bereaved parent who longs to hear someone talk about their child.
- Attending a hospital community event like the Stroll for Strong Kids allows a family to see your dedication and commitment to helping future families. This is also a special time to see families in a relaxed atmosphere and have conversations that are not distracted by work obligations.
You are not alone as you process loss and grief. In addition to the UR Medicine Employee Assistance Program and talking to your supervisor, the hospital bereavement coordinator is always available as a resource if you have questions about connecting with and reaching out to bereaved families.
Thank you for the incredible work you do each day. You are a valuable and important part of Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Printable Resources for Families & Staff
Age Specific Support for Grieving Children