1. Be careful what you say.
Try to avoid trite cliches such as:
2. Help Facilitate Ritual.
Culture will determine the nature and extent of ritual participate. Be sensitive to the needs of diverse groups.
These rituals may include:
I wanted to look at his body. Touch him. I thought they’d think I was crazy.
I never got to rock her. This hurt me for so long. Shouldn’t every parent
Excerpt from “The Power of Compassion: A New Attitude in Healthcare” by Joanne Cacciatore
3. Be honest with family members.
Convey the child’s prognosis or death gently, but honestly. Encourage them to ask questions and stay with them. It is important for them to feel like they did not ‘experience’ this traumatic event alone.
4. Do understand the grief process and become an effective grief facilitator.
5. Understand the true meaning of Kubler-Ross’ Stage Theory.
6. Help to support grieving children in the family as much as parents and grandparents.
Children are often suffering immense confusion and pain and they need the gentle support of their caregivers.
7. Offer a medical explanation in layperson’s terms.
Don’t use clinical vernacular. Keep it simple, honest, and understandable.
8. Be sure to offer an autopsy and organ or tissue donation when culturally appropriate.
9. Take care of your own grief!
I have seen, experienced, and lived with death all my life. From the concentration camps during World War II to my work with dying children, my mission in life has been to help people cope with death, dying, and grief. For forty years, I preached to colleagues about the importance of good bedside manners. Due to personal interaction throughout the years with the healthcare industry, there have been times I thought that no one was listening. I had four miscarriages during my childbearing years. I was ignored and encouraged to move on. I wasn’t offered a kind smile or words of support. Even recently, when I was admitted to the hospital after falling in my home, paramedics took me to the hospital where I was left alone for six hours. No one at the hospital offered me any real compassion or empathy, or even just someone to talk to or hold my hand. I wondered why these individuals chose to work in the healthcare field. It is important for them to work for people, to work for the good of people, with their hearts and souls. If they did that, compassion would naturally evolve. They must love their job. They must act with compassion.
Since September 11, 2001, Americans are facing a collective grief unfamiliar to them. Healthcare workers, employers, government officials, and citizens are coping with the reality of trauma in its worse form. Grief will become a common word in our new lives following this tragedy. Yet, we’ve seen many encouraging signs of a community of compassion. At the end of this crazy week, I realized that maybe, little by little, things are changing in the world we live in. Compassion and love, the most important human characteristics, live within us all. During times of great turmoil, whether it is a horrific tragedy involving massive death or whether it is a single incident of a family experiencing the death of one child, compassion must move from dormant to active. The families of tragedies will still suffer for you can never take away their pain. But a compassionate community will not add burden and further injury to their immense suffering and will make the healing journey a bit easier to endure. Love your job, love your family, love your country, and love one another.