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Living beyond death and dying: managing the challenges of loss and grief among community nurses

02 April 2023
Volume 28 · Issue 4

Community nurses who support individuals in the palliative phase often encounter death as part of their work. Death and dying episodes tend to have a negative impact on palliative care professionals (Nicol and Nyatanga, 2017), as they are constantly exposed to patients and those deemed important to them, at the end of life. Although the focus of care and support is on the dying patients, it is important to consider how such deaths affect healthcare professionals like community nurses, who may continue to visit homes to provide bereavement support for families following the deaths. Needless to say, these healthcare professionals might experience a sense of loss as well and therefore, grieving is only natural. Nicol and Nyatanga (2017) explain how healthcare professionals forge caring relationships with their patients, and through this, they become emotionally attached. Healthcare professionals often develop relationships, albeit professional, with their patients, and therefore may experience loss and grief following the death of their patients. The advent of death ‘shatters’ this attachment and results in painful feelings we label as grief. Most literature on loss and grief (Bowlby, 1987; Stroebe and Schut, 1999) claims that affectionate bonds are formed as people develop relationships with each other. The stronger the relationship is, the deeper the emotional bonds between people are. It also translates that when one person dies in a relationship, those who are left behind suffer (the bereaved). In fact, they might have multiple bereavement episodes and concurrently, as they care for more than one patient at any given time.

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