I'm a parish nurse and group leader for a bereaved widows and widowers program. Do you know of any studies about how grief affects survivors whose loved ones were in pain during their last weeks of life?-K.A., VT.
I'm not aware of research on this topic, but if any readers are, please let me know. Anecdotally, I've talked with grieving family members who express relief that their loved one's suffering has finally ended. I've never heard someone say, "I feel guilty because I didn't insist that the hospice nurse give him more pain medicine" or "I should've just given her more of those pills."
Once the difficult days are over, widows and widowers typically shift toward facing life without their spouses. They need to nurture and nourish their memories of good times.
But your question troubles me. With the availability of palliative care-which every dying patient deserves-no one should experience physical agony at the end of life. Pain control is especially important when we have little else to offer, and any hospice program should be skilled at providing it.