Chapter 1: Grief responses to suffering and death

Impact of multiple deaths

The palliative care expert says
Marianne talks about recognizing and supporting paramedics as they experience multiple deaths and multiple layers of grief. (3:22)Video transcript

Research indicates that cumulative exposure to deaths can have an impact over time. This accumulation may include:

  • Many end-of-life situations over years.
  •  A single call with numerous deaths.

Paramedics report feelings of grief, powerlessness, horror, fear and, in cases of mass casualties following a violent episode, a sense of apocalypse. These are signs of vicarious traumatization, which is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

Other studies report that for health care providers with personal histories of mood disorders, bereavement may trigger the onset of a clinical depression.

As your experience in responding to end-of-life calls grows, you’ll likely feel increased self-confidence in your skills. You may also find this important work never gets easier, but may in fact become harder depending on the situation. While your instinct may be to push these thoughts and feelings aside, it’s important to work through them, using grief response strategies and your support network.