I work in an outpatient surgical suite with two other RNs. We're a tight group and frequently have family get-togethers. Recently the 17-year-old son of one colleague, Julie, was killed in a car crash. My other colleague refused to go to his funeral, saying she "wanted to remember Zach the way he was."I went because I felt it was important to be there for Julie. I really don't understand my friend's attitude. What do you think?-G.D., COLO.
Funerals allow us to publicly acknowledge and commemorate a death. But when someone close to us dies, we're reminded more keenly of our own mortality. We don't like it, but out of compassion for the mourners, we attend the service.
Your friend felt the need to deny that this boy had died. Zach isn't "the way he was," and by refusing to see his dead body, she thought she could somehow deny his death.
Certainly you want to remember all the good things about him, but it's unhealthy to keep him alive by using this means of coping. Ultimately, your friend will have to begin grieving. Attending the funeral, crying with others, and sharing the pain would have been a natural starting point.
But it's not too late to help both your friend and Julie. Ask your friend to join you in a visit with Julie. Remind her that Julie may need to tell and retell the "story" of Zach's death. Too often, friends and relatives stop visiting or telephoning because they tire of hearing it over and over again. But that's precisely what this grieving mother needs to say and what her friends need to hear.
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At first your friend may be uncomfortable with Julie's grief, but trust her good instincts to come through. After all, she's a nurse!!