Chapter 1: Grief responses to suffering and death

Reminders of personal loss

The paramedic says
Tristan talks about the sometimes unexpected impact of personal life on work - and vice versa. (3:22)Video transcript

He didn’t look at all like my Dad, but this was a family losing a father, and I wasn’t prepared for those feelings around my Dad’s death to hit me again, years later. - Canadian paramedic


Palliative care calls may bring out your own grief. You may find yourself more easily overwhelmed or affected by someone dying because of your own history. Grief from past losses commonly resurface in sudden or intense ways, even years later. A patient, family member or situation may remind you on some level of something you’ve experienced. Each new loss experience carries echoes of past losses.

A palliative care call can trigger memories of other significant, non-death losses (e.g, divorce, romantic break-up, loss of home, loss of financial stability, etc.). Try to observe how these losses impact you and your work. Some feelings may be fleeting, or they may last longer than expected. Protracted emotional response can be troubling.

If you’re concerned that thoughts and feelings about a loss you believed was resolved return unexpectedly, this isn’t a sign of failure, but rather a sign of being human. We carry the history of our losses within, re-integrating them into who we are each time they resurface.