Chapter 1: Grief responses to suffering and death

Introduction

The paramedic says
Tyne reflects on bearing witness to suffering, the unfairness of life and the role she can take on. (3:22)

I couldn’t understand what I was experiencing. It was only in talking it out with a colleague that I realized that what I was feeling was grief. - Canadian paramedicIt is hard to admit this, but the death of Mr. Smith really got to me. The death of a patient usually doesn’t affect me, but for some reason this one did. - Canadian paramedic

Patient suffering and death takes a personal toll on you. The “tough” persona of paramedics can get in the way of acknowledging this and responding constructively. Grief responses to patient death are common to all health care providers and may be profound at times for paramedics. You may have a close personal relationship to the patient and family; the relationship may have developed over the course of multiple calls; you may be impacted by multiple deaths or a single death that reminds you of a personal loss; your grief may be unacknowledged. The result is the same: work-related grief.

Too often, grief is poorly understood and not well supported in this society. You may not realize that certain behaviours and feelings you’re experiencing are a grief-related response to your work. You may question the validity of your deep feelings for someone you don’t know well or a situation in which you had professional rather than personal involvement. You may not realize your personal grief can exacerbate your professional grief, and vice versa. However, the impact of patient death on health care providers is well established.