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January 22, 2013

Nurse's grief at patients' loss felt by her whole family

:Dear Abby: I would like to respond to “Still Grieving in Arkansas” (Nov. 20), who was upset that he didn’t get a response to a note he sent to his wife’s treating physician after her death.

As an RN, my mom had a tendency to become very close to patients who required long-term care in the hospital. It seemed that she never had any “emotional detachment” from her patients, but instead formed an “emotional attachment.”

I recall many times during the convalescence or death of these patients, Mom would come home from work and go to bed and cry from her own bereavement. As her son, I grieved, too, because it hurt me to see Mom hurting. As a young child, my father, siblings and I could have done without these periods of unnecessary emotional pain.

Therefore, Dear Abby, I think you were right to say, “Please forgive them” when doctors and nurses don’t exhibit public remorse during times of grief.

RN’s Son In Georgia

Dear RN’s Son: Thank you for describing your mother’s response to a patient’s passing and how it affected the family. However, I also heard from many health care providers who said that it IS their duty to acknowledge the passing of one of their patients, and it should be considered part of the healing process for both the patient’s family and the health care provider. Read on:

Dear Abby: I am a hematologist-oncologist. I try to send a sympathy card to each family after the death of their relative. If I receive a note or a copy of an obituary, I try to call the person to thank them for taking the time to contact me.

After seeing “Grieving’s” letter, I took an informal poll of my colleagues and was gratified that many DO send notes. I was surprised that some do not extend sympathies. After hearing it, I encouraged them all to do so. It’s the least we can do to promote healing among the survivors.

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