Dear Abby: Nurse's grief at patients' loss was felt by her whole family

Posted: January 22, 2013

DEAR ABBY: I would like to respond to "Still Grieving in Arkansas," 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. I recall many times during the convalescence or death of these patients, Mom would come home from work and go to bed and cry. As her son, I grieved, too.

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 contacting me.

- Ohio Oncologist

DEAR ABBY: I am a retired medical oncologist. Early in my career, a grieving patient's husband berated me for not contacting the family after his wife died. For 30 years, until I retired, I sent a personal sympathy card and message to each family . Sharing these thoughts also gave me closure.

- Doctor Jack in Arizona

DEAR ABBY: Please let "Grieving" know that one reason the health care professionals did not acknowledge his wife's death may have been they were instructed by the hospital/treatment center not to. In this day and age, when doctors are sued for malpractice, these types of sympathy notes can be used in court.

- Yvonne in Amsterdam

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