At some point or another as a healthcare professional, you're going to lose a patient. Grieving the death of a patient is not an easy experience, but it's an important one. And here's the good news: there are plenty of resources at your disposal as a healthcare professional to help you deal with your loss.
Here are four tips for managing grief when you lose a patient:
Don't bottle it up.
One of the worst things you can do when you lose a patient is to bottle up your emotions. The first step is to acknowledge and accept your own grief. From there, you'll want to talk to a trusted family member, friend, or colleague. Discuss what happened – don't hesitate to be honest about what you're thinking and feeling. Being open and transparent when talking about the situation might be difficult, but it's the best way to get out what you're feeling and process your emotions in a healthy way.
Dedicate time to self-care.
Losing a patient is traumatic – there's no way around it. When you're not at work, make sure you're taking time for yourself. That can mean different things for different people. Some might simply need to recharge at home by relaxing and sleeping. Others might benefit from a trip to the spa, or a shopping day. Exercising and eating well are also recommended.
Make it a learning experience.
One of the best ways to remember your patient is by learning from the experience you had with them. The loss, while difficult, can make you a better caregiver – step back and reflect on what happened, what went wrong, and what you could do differently moving forward. If you have any concerns or insights into what could help things improve for other patients in the future, be sure to bring it up to your supervisor.
Talk to a professional.
If you're struggling with grief after the loss of a patient and feel that you can't move on after the loss, it's time to seek the help of a professional. There are a variety of resources available through your workplace, and outside of it as well, that can help. Set up an appointment with a therapist or connect with support groups in your area. You can also utilize the power of online support groups and online therapy, too.