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May 2010, Volume 40 Number 5 , p 53 - 54


  • Joy Ufema MS, RN


I'm a pediatric nurse in a small community hospital. Most children with cancer are referred to a medical center about 100 miles away. But last week, an 8-year-old named Nathan was too ill for the trip and was brought to my unit. He was with us for less than a day before he died during the night.The next day, when I told my nurse manager how upset I was, she said she didn't feel that way because Nathan had been in the unit only a short time. I think she meant that I shouldn't be so upset, but I am. Your thoughts?—H.M., ORE.By denying her own grief, this nurse can easily deny her staff's grief. Perhaps her attitude is the aftermath of a sudden and difficult death in her own life, when she felt unloved and unsupported in her despair. She may be terrified that displaying vulnerability will again cast her into this painful loneliness. She might also fear that validating your sadness could interfere with work in the unit.Sadly, this is a time when you're all mourners and need one another's support more than ever. Although none of you knew Nathan well, his death affects you. You're nurses, and parents, and human. Don't lose your willingness to care.Consider attending Nathan's funeral. Many bereaved and heart-broken parents have told me how much it meant to them to see their child's nurse at the service. How much more meaningful it would be if their son's nurse, who knew him so briefly, cared enough to honor his life.Sharing grief helps, so ask your coworkers to join you. Tell your manager about your plans and invite her to sit with you. Even if she chooses not to go, I believe she'll be moved by your compassion. And who knows, she might send a bouquet of flowers. Perhaps "forget-me-nots."After a death in our medical-surgical unit, we're sensitive about preparing the body for the family to visit. But after a patient died recently, her son couldn't get to the hospital until many hours later. By then, the body had been

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