Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Comfort

I had to tell a Mom that her son died. He was a grown young man, victim of a freak accident, out of the blue.

From what I could glean, Mom was essentially all alone. It was, or had been, a positive time in their lives. Her son was soon to be married, and they had been enjoying the pre-wedding whirl.

She knew, as they all do when we place the family in the ‘Chapel,’ that it was bad.

I tried to do all the things we are taught about communicating bad news to families – get down on eye level, use unmistakeable words and simple sentences, hold a hand, give her time.

Her sobs, though inaudible, were heartwrenching.

I told her that I don’t think he felt any pain, or even knew what happened. It was true this time, although sometimes I say it even when I’m not sure. It’s the only comfort I can offer.

2 comments:

  1. The Mommy DoctorJuly 26, 2008 at 3:10 AM

    This connects with an earlier post as well, but I found that once I became a mother, I had much more trouble telling people bad news. In residency, I was proud (for lack of a better work) of my compassion and ability to sympathize w/ families. After having my first, I have found it near impossible to not empathize w/ families, especially parents. I was unable to hold myself separate from the parents who lost a child. I became acutely aware of the devastation of my news and the invasion of my presence in the face of their despair.

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  2. They don't teach this in med school. It is an art, one I'm good at, one I hate.

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