The death angel

20 Jun

So I’m gonna be brutally honest and say that today was mentally and emotionally draining. I’ve never quite experienced some of the things i’ve had to do today. Today I delivered the news that a loved one was dying to a family. Today I had to look into their tired eyes and tell them it is all down hill from here.That was me. How do you look at the person who delivers that news? In my orientation we talked about stereotypes of hospice and its employees, one of the stereotypes was that hospice nurses are “angels” and compassionate and super human to deal with the hardest situations, but really, we’re the death angels. We deliver the worst news with the kindest words. The hardest pill to swallow with your favorite drink. We play this balancing act between reality and transcendence. We must look into the souls of people who have loved and cared for loved ones to the point of exhaustion and help them realize their work is done.

I’ve recognized some things about death and dying today while working with a nurse admitting patients to our care. I thought in order to make it through this job you had to separate yourself with the situation and only deal with the objective data you’re given. But in reality you can’t be a good nurse with this stance. I realized you have to treat death as a part of life, a rite of passage as much as being born. The parallels are unnerving. It’s more important to be comfortable with the journey no matter how stressful and cumbersome it may be with each family. I’ve learned what it means to show humanity in painful situations and to remain your composure in an upsetting environment. I never thought I could do any of these things but here I am, on my couch , for the most part, intact.

I was on the shuttle leaving the markey cancer center today and I saw a man next to me rip his hospital bracelet off and say to his pre-teen daughter ” I hope I never see the inside of that place again” the daughter responded ” me too dad”. He put his arm around her for the rest of the ride to the parking garage. He was strong for her sake. I then thought of a daughter I talked to upstairs fall to pieces in the hallway and then compose herself before going back in her dad’s room. It’s funny how we have to be strong for each other like that. Family shows love in solidarity. It never changes, it never falters. Love is hard and soft at the same time. And so, I must try to be as well because telling the truth is showing compassion. And compassion is the heart of nursing.


That’s all I know for now.


One Response to “The death angel”

  1. Trixie Whicker June 21, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    This a great presentation of Hospice. I experienced this about 10 years ago and I will always remember how hospice helped me thru the worst time of my life. Thanks Hospice for your loving care.

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