AFTER DEATH, WHAT?

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This is not a philosophical question, or a religious one. It’s a question about what happens to the person sitting by a hospital bedside when the occupant of the bed, someone who was loved and cherished, becomes (suddenly or at last) “the deceased,” dies perhaps even while the sun is still shining brightly through the clean hospital windows, mocking the dark ache in the heart of the solitary survivor.

In the hospital where Bill died early in May, a four-year-old state-of-the-art hospital in upscale Princeton, New Jersey — home of a world-renowned university, of the Institute for Advanced Studies (where Albert Einstein found safe harbor after fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe during World War II), and of Westminister Choir College, whose graduates grace stages in many celebrated opera houses – in this spiffy new hospital, the person blinded by tears who holds the still-warm hand of a new cadaver simply ceases to exist.

A nurse’s aide came to wheel away the equipment that had sustained Bill’s life for the past seven days. I began to gather up my things, thinking they were about to clear the room. “You can stay for half an hour or so,” she said matter-of-factly as she left. “They won’t take him away and remake the bed before that.” People continued to walk back and forth in the hall. I had to get up to close the door.

Not that I had counted for much in the hospital before that, except as a conduit for conveying important information about Bill. In fact, “you can stay for half an hour or so” was one of only five things anyone there said to me the day Bill died. Earlier, Bill’s fourth pulmonologist had come by to report he wasn’t getting better and what did we want to do next, whereupon I told her Bill’s son and I agreed we should let him go. She nodded and said, “I wish more families were as wise as you.” And that was that. She just left. I never again saw or heard from her, although it was me who had accompanied Bill on every outpatient appointment with her and asked at least half the questions. It was also me who had brought him to her office in a wheelchair just before she checked him into the hospital because he was so weak and sick. She knew me. I had thought she was nice. But of course I wasn’t her patient. Her role as a physician ended with Bill’s death. She had no obligation to me, not even a human one. Not even to say she was so sorry.

Somewhat later, another pulmonologist came in. I had seen him briefly just once before, because he was one of four in practice together who took turns doing the hospital rounds for pulmonology cases, so that each was there only every fourth day and you never really got to know any one of them. (Maybe that’s how they keep from becoming too emotionally invested in a patient.) “You’d better notify a funeral director to come get the body afterwards,” he said. “We can only keep it overnight.” As if Bill were a left-behind package needing removal.

After they pulled out the intubation tubes and — still unconscious — Bill was rapidly slipping away, an intensive care nurse came to check that dying was proceeding properly and reprimanded me for looking at the monitor to see his oxygen level. “Don’t look there. Look at his face,” she scolded. (While I still could?) She turned off the monitor. So it was me who first noticed he had died. I held my hand against his cracked and slightly open lips but no faint breath came out. She brought in the pulmonologist who had advised calling a funeral director. He held Bill’s inert wrist for a moment, looked at the clock, and said — not to me, but to the nurse, who was taking notes — “Time of death 2:52 p.m.”

When he, the nurse, the nurse’s aide, and the equipment were gone, I called the funeral director and made arrangements to come to his office next day to pay him for what he was about to do and give him the requisite information for the death certificate. Then I kissed the forehead of the body in the bed that wasn’t Bill any more and stumbled out of the room into the hall and towards the elevator. It was a long hall. I had trouble maintaining my balance. The resident who had seen me every day for the past seven days was at the floor reception desk as I passed him. I gave him a slight nod, but not a flicker of recognition crossed his face. He might have been staring into space. I also crossed paths with the two day nurses and one of the four pulmonologists who had looked after Bill during the seven days he spent in their care. All three looked right through me.

One person noticed how erratically I was walking. It was the respiratory technician, a woman called Antonia who appeared to be in her late fifties; she had been in Bill’s room every day during the last three days of his life to adjust the respirator keeping him alive. Our eyes met, she came towards me and held out her arms. It was a big hug. My eyes began to fill again. “Will you be all right driving home?” she asked, still hugging. I nodded, because it was too hard to speak. “Be careful,” she said. “God bless.”

Of course I wasn’t all right driving home. My hands and arms shook so much I could hardly keep the wheel from going out of control as I tried to make the winding turns out of the hospital complex and back onto Route 1 South. Two other drivers gave me long and frightening honks, as if it were thanks only to them I myself had narrowly escaped being killed.

Resigning myself to the fact of Bill’s death is still very hard. But what particularly festered on the day he died, and does to a certain extent even now, is that his doctors and nurses made it so very clear they didn’t care at all about what I might be feeling. Maybe where there’s so much pain and suffering for their patients, they can’t permit themselves the humanity to be even momentarily concerned with those who survive the patients. Or maybe my experience was unique. Maybe at other hospitals it’s different. I don’t know. All I can say is that nearly three months later, I don’t remember the names of any of the four pulmonologists or the intensive care nurses. I’ll remember Antonia with gratitude for a very long time.

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120 thoughts on “AFTER DEATH, WHAT?

  1. I’m sorry you should had have such unfeeling doctors and nursing staff around you at the end of Bill’s life. Surely you were unlucky in those staff, I can’t imagine this is the norm. I know things can be both very sharp and very blurred at such momentous times and how people around you behave matters so much. Hang on to Antonia, I’m glad she was there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Perhaps the National Health in Britain is organized differently, Hilary. Before this four-year-old hospital was built, the old hospital in Princeton (now closed and replaced by new high-end rental apartments), which was on one of the two main streets in town and very close to almost all local doctors’ offices, operated on a different system. Your own doctor not only checked you in but supervised your care (even by specialists not in his or her field), and came to see you, talk to you and explain things to you every day. That doctor had a history with the partners of the sick and dying as well, and was often physician to the partners as well. There was much more humanity in that medical care model.

      The new hospital, where Bill died, operates on a different model, probably for bottom-line reasons. As I explained, your own doctor does not treat you, and generally does not even appear. (In Bill’s case, she happened to be in the building so stopped by.) There’s a troika, or quartet, of specialists in the relevant field who provide treatment in turn; they know you only from your medical records and the notes of their partners. It may be more efficient, probably more economical, certainly more sparing of the physician’s emotional involvement, but seems inhuman. Also one tells you one thing, the next day another tells you something that sounds different! I don’t fault the medical care Bill was given, or the nursing. I’m sure the four hospital pulmonologists did all that could be done to keep him alive a while longer. And the intensive care nurses were wonderful with him while he was conscious, meticulous after he was no longer conscious. But they may have picked up from the doctors that family doesn’t really matter, since you can’t bill for your “services” to them. Antonia, by contrast, was probably paid a flat salary and could afford to be human.

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  2. The Antonias of this world are still around. The bereavement never goes and love memories of the past have to nurture us onwards. Sometimes, it all comes so back, and makes us heave by the clarity of those memories. It feels as if they haven’t gone.
    You wrote another beautiful piece, dear Nina. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Being alone through all that was awful. I always thought they brought in clergy for the living. My mother died in the hospital alone. I had been in but left (they encouraged me to). I received a call at 10 p.m. saying that she had had a heart attack but was stable and there was no need to come in. I shouldn’t have listened. She passed 2 hours later. The family doctor met us (my brothers came in too) in the room to talk to us. It was still hard. I always wished I had gone back in to sit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clergy is available at Princeton’s hospital, and was offered when we first checked Bill in, but Bill didn’t want it. No one asked me (although I wouldn’t have wanted religious comfort then, either.)

      I’m so sorry you weren’t there when your mother died. That must be hard to live with afterwards. But you were lucky (if I can use that word in such unlucky circumstances) in having a family doctor to meet with and talk to you. I can’t remember when I last had a “family” doctor. It’s all specialists these days, each treating a different part of you. Even your emotions need a specialist — psychiatrist for meds (if necessary), clinical psychologist or social worker for talk therapy. God forbid an oncologist or urologist (or pulmonologist) should try to help you deal with the death of someone you love.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Clarissa. But “no idea” that Bill had died? (I wrote about it two posts ago, so if you didn’t know, you must have missed reading it.) Or no idea that hospitals –even where medically efficient — can be such cold, unfeeling places? Well, all that was nearly three months ago. Not long enough to ease the pain of not living with Bill anymore. But long enough to develop a protective carapace of cynicism about expecting too much from most people…. Stay well, and enjoy your life with N. and baby Klara. It’s a wonderful time!

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  4. Rita

    Dear Friend: What a sad story–I did not have that experience when Richard died at Neurological Institute in NYC–the neurosurgeon who did a last ditched heroic operation on him wrote me a beautiful note…ending, “I’m so sorry, I thought I could save him”. I’m sorry your experience was so awful, but you had the experience of Antonia, who cared–and, at least you had the chance to be with Bill when he died–unfortunately that didn’t happen with me–I did not have the
    chance to say goodbye. I still think about that………..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Richard died — what? — over thirty years ago, Rita. I think medical care, in general, may have been more humane when it was run less like a business and more like a healing profession. But, as I noted in a reply above, I have grown cynical. There still are some (mostly graying) doctors with heart. Here, with poor Bill, that wasn’t the case. I don’t fault his care. I’m simply observing that I seemed not to count at all.

      Yes, I’m glad Bill and I had that last night together when he was still conscious, so that we could say goodbye, and I wish you and Richard could have had the same. But you can hardly fault yourself, dear Rita…..

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  5. Judith

    It does seem that the healing professionals vary greatly in their attentiveness to the inner person, both that of the patient and his or her loving survivor. Could it be that the respiratory technician Antonia, making in Princeton around $75,000 (nothing to sneeze at, of course), was in the business more for the satisfaction of caring for the whole person than the pulmonologists making around $285,000 (greater than three times her salary)? It couldn’t be true across the board. (Victo Dolore proves that.) But whatever the reason for Bill’s doctors proving to be less than truly Good Doctors, I too am very sorry for your pain, Nina. I would be angry—and I’d also be grateful, as you are, for the simple human kindness of the one healer there who saw your need. Praise be.

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    • In all candor, Judith, I suspect Antonia (who — from our brief chats in Bill’s room when she came to check his machines — I believe had worked in a public school lunchroom before becoming certified as a hospital technician) had sought her job there for the salary, the benefits and the pension, and that interest in “healing” had very little to do with it. (Also the training was relatively brief and inexpensive.) On the other hand, she wasn’t driven by thoughts of compliance with health insurance requirements, med mal lawsuits, medical issues without clear solutions, either. So she had the time and probably relative peace of mind actually to see the people in the rooms she entered, and the goodness of heart to offer motherly comfort where she sensed it might be needed. That said, I do thank you for your warm and empathetic comments.

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  6. Doctors and other medical people deal with death every day, and perhaps they become numb to the trauma of that moment of passing, for relatives and loved ones. But that’s no excuse whatsoever for the way you were treated. They all need to get back in touch with their humanity. So sad that this was your experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Julie. Yes, it was sad, and yes, I think they do have to numb themselves or they wouldn’t be able to survive and function. That doesn’t make it any easier for the relatives experiencing the coldness, But who ever said life (or death) was going to be easy?

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  7. Reblogged this on Behind the White Coat and commented:
    I have been reading Nina Mishkin’s posts at her Getting Old blog for some time. I have read some truly beautiful and thought provoking posts there. Yesterday she wrote this heart wrenching post about what happened after her partner, Bill, died of pulmonary fibrosis a few months ago. Everyone in healthcare must remember that our duty to the dying does not simply end when that patient dies. It must extend also to the individuals left in that hospital room.

    Liked by 4 people

    • As I noted on your own blog, beneath the re-blog you so kindly offered me:

      “Thanks so much for the shout-out, Victo. You certainly sent quite a lot of new readers my way — for which even more thanks! Reading the comments about this post, both on your blog and on my own, I’m glad to learn there are still some doctors and nurses (I will use the old fashioned words, and not coldly call them “healthcare providers”) who have hearts as well as medical training. I do understand it must be almost unbearable to expose oneself to the pain and anguish in intensive care units, and perhaps that partially explains the need some doctors and nurses experience to shut themselves off from feeling too much for the surviving families as well as for the patients. On the other hand, when you’re on the receiving end of such disregard, it does make you feel even more alone. Blogging about it certainly helps!”

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  8. I am so sorry for your loss and the experience you suffered. I was with my Dad when he died 20 years ago, holding his hand as he passed away, my Mother holding the other. The ICU staff couldn’t have been kinder or more thoughtful. Nothing was too much trouble. They treated my Dad with respect, keeping him clean and presentable at all times, cleaning his teeth, wetting his mouth, and ensuring my Mum had tea or went for something to eat. Dad was never alone, and I am so glad I was there when he left us. I still miss him. My thoughts are with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment, Pensitivity. I certainly don’t fault his doctors and nurses for their treatment of Bill. The intensive care nurses in particular were thoughtful, kind and attentive, and I’m sure he got state-of-the-art efforts from the pulmonologists. My remarks concerned the inhumanity that can result when hospitals are organized on a business model, as more and more of them seem to be today. Twenty years ago was another time and place. But I’m glad you had the best kind of experience one can have when going through something so difficult and painful as the loss of a father.

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  9. What a heart-breaking story. Compassion for the relatives should be taught in medical school. No one should feel so alone and discarded at such a horrible time. And certainly, you should not have been allowed to leave the facility without an escort who could drive you home.

    I sat by mother’s bed as she was dying, but she was at a nursing home which had dedicated hospice nurses. Those nurses took care of the family members as well as the patient, even to the point of making sure that we family members were fed and comforted. Once my mother passed, the head nurse expressed her condolences and told us to spend as much time as we needed to say our final goodbyes, and that she would be right outside the door. She made sure as we exited one by one that each person was handling the situation as well as could be expected. That’s how these things should e done. I never once felt the medical staff was looking at my mom or at us as merely a checkmark on a list somewhere.

    Maybe your story will generate some much-needed attention to end-of-life care for both patient and loved ones.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hospice is a whole other story, Cordelia’s Mom. I too have heard nothing but good things of hospice care. We didn’t get that. We entered the hospital not really expecting Bill to die there. If you go back two posts on this blog and read “My Darling Bill is Dead,” you can see that we had a best-case scenario of two or two-and-a-half more years for him to live. The seven days he spent in hospital were a rapid and horrible dawning on both of us that he had likely come to the end. As for what my story may or may not generate, I say what I said on Victo Dolore’s reblog of this post when Victo also hoped that posting might bring attention to the plight of the survivor: “As they used to say in the Old Country, from your lips to God’s ear.”

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  10. I wish your experience was unique but sadly it is not. Hospital personnel are frequently grossly insensitive. I know because I am a clinical social worker who has worked in hospitals for decades.
    I am so sorry you were treated like this. It makes me very unhappy. You were absolutely entitled to care, concern, attention and time.
    Let me now, too little, too late, express my sincere empathy for your profound loss and my heartfelt apologies that were treated in such a callous manner.
    Hugs to you and caring thoughts too~

    Liked by 4 people

  11. It is difficulr to ‘like’ this post because of the pain, loss, and solitude you describe. My mother passed away ten years ago from the same dreadful dx process, pulmonary fibrosis, so I do understand your life with Bill’s suffering. Our experience with my mother’s pulmonologist and the hospital where she finally succumbed was a completely different experience than yours and I often refer others to these professionals when I can. I do wish your final days with Bill were not tainted with uncaring healthcare professionals. Kindness makes ALL the difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t at all fault the medical care and nursing that Bill received during his last seven days, when he had succumbed to a pneumonia his compromised lungs couldn’t shake off. The nurses were wonderful to him, and I have no doubt he had every medical intervention short of a tracheotomy, which he had refused while he was still conscious, declaring he didn’t want to live attached to tubes and machines. The post was about the loneliness I experienced there from the time it was decided we should let him go. Perhaps if there had been more family about, it might have been easier. But both my sons (who were not Bill’s sons) were far away, and Bill’s son lives in California. He had offered to fly East, but I didn’t think there was anything he could do, not even speak to his father, who was already in a medically induced kind of coma. So I was essentially alone. As you say, kindness would have made a difference. Fortunately, there was Antonia….

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  12. Nina, I am a Victo reader, reading her cross post now.
    I do not know Princeton Hospital, though I knew some
    of their MD’s who have since passed.
    There is no way that any hospital staff, has any right
    to not honor and respect Bill’s death, and your grieving.
    Thankfully there was one good person who hugged you,
    and grieved immediately with you.
    With all of our family losses over the years, we were
    always met with compassion. I am sorry that this
    staff were so arrogant.

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    • I suspect that much of what I wrote about is the result of the move from old Princeton hospital to the new one, which I spelled out in some detail in my reply to the first comment to this post, from HilaryCustanceGreen. Even most nursing staff at the new hospital admit, when asked, that they liked everything (except the the crowding) about the old hospital better. It may have been small and dark, and the hospital food was worse, but it was friendlier and kinder. The new hospital seems to be run on a business model rather than a healing, compassionate one. Progress!

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      • The people I knew were an anesthesiologist & his
        anesthetist nurse wife. Both gone now. They lived
        on our street in LBI. Their children grew up with
        my sons.

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  13. Dear Nina, I’m so sorry for your loss, and for the added heartache of an insensitive medical staff. There is never a good way to lose someone you love, but humanity and consideration should remain foremost in patient care.

    When my sister was dying of kidney failure, and she had been removed from all support hours earlier, a kidney specialist hooked her up to dialysis while I was in the bathroom. She knew we were letting Beth go, but did it anyway. I’m still angry at her.

    This song, We become birds when we die, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8feGQ0toVo) has brought me a lot of comfort. I think of my parents and my sisters now as the birds I’m sure they became.

    May you soon think of Bill with more smiles than tears.

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  14. I am surprised that they didn’t have someone there to help you through this. I guess in the big city hospitals they just don’t have the man/woman power to do it. It is never an easy process but I do agree that you did the right thing and he wasn’t alone when he passed. You were there.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Princeton isn’t a big city, Leslie. It’s a (geographically) small university town, although a well-known one. But it does have many wealthy people living in it (not me) and the tax base is high. So I don’t think the problem is the cost of manpower. And there were certainly clergy available, had either Bill or I wanted religious comfort.

      But yes, I was there when he took his last breath. He didn’t know it, being in a morphine-induced state of unconsciousness, but I knew it. And I was able to spend the last night before the morphine in his room, so we had time for him to hear and know how I felt about him. If you’re interested, you could read the two posts just prior to this one; they pretty much summarize what happened.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Not anywhere near Princeton. A son in Florida, a son in D.C.-New York (commutes back and forth), plus Bill’s son in California. They’re all supportive by telephone. But as for hands-on help, such as in selling the condo and buying a smaller apartment in a retirement community — I’m on my own. In a way, having to do all that, plus now the blog again, keeps me sane. 🙂 If I didn’t keep busy, I’d be crying. I do a fair amount of that anyway, but less than I might be doing otherwise…..

        Liked by 2 people

      • It’s good to keep busy. Some how women seem to manage better after the loss of a spouse. Is their grief counselling there or a group of widows that you could talk to?
        Leslie

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      • Both. The post before this one somewhat explored my experiences with two bereavement groups. I’ve also found a one-on-one clinical psychologist specializing in care taking and bereavement issues who also takes Medicare. So I’m well fixed on those fronts. Thank you for asking, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. What a brutally honest and heartbreaking experience. No one should have that type of insensitive experience at a moment like that in their lives. I’m so very sorry for your loss. I pray for your strength and his soul.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. So sorry Nina, I am surprised at how your were treated. I do not think that the norm.
    Those of us left behind are the ones that are in the most pain. I wrote something and I hope it gives you some comfort.

    There’s a place for me up there

    Where the stars so brightly shine.

    The spot between the Milky Way

    and just near the great divine.

    At night when you look up

    to see the twinkling of the lights.

    Please think of me with joy and love.

    I’ll be just off to the right.

    By: Patricia S.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m visiting via Victo Dolores and I’m so very sorry for the shameful experience you had during a time that was so difficult and painful.
    No one should experience such indifference. My deepest sympathies.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I am a Victo reader also. I am so sorry you had such a horrible experience but I truly felt every word you wrote. I too had a similar experience when my dad died. He was fine the day before and we were placing him in rehab the next day. I walked in to help get things ready on the way to somewhere else and he was actively dying. The nurse or tech told me. He also said he had been given a lasix. My father came up from the fog he was in and I asked him if he had to go…in the sense of peeing…. I went into the hall while the nurse thrust a urinal between his legs and my father passed on. His “having to go” was not to the bathroom, but to wherever he was heading next. The nurse left after pulling up the blanket and left me. The next person who came in sometime after wanted to know that my father had gifted his eyes and they would need to do something fairly soon….. that was it…. I left him laying there and went home.
    Your Bill will be there with you always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Jane, your experience sounds even more heartless than mine. I’m so sorry,

      Yes, Bill’s still here with me — in the sense that he’ll be in my heart forever. But in another way, he’s not. He’s not on the other side of the bed when I wake up in the morning, he’s not facing me across the table at breakfast and dinner, he’s not next to me on the living room sofa when I try to read or watch television, he will never hold my hand in his again…. It’s very hard to deal with that.

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  19. That was a devastating read. I’m glad you wrote it. Hopefully it will change the behavior you experienced.

    I’m sorry for your loss. Your grief is tangible in this post.

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    • Thank you for your kind comment, Joey. I doubt very much anything I write in The Getting Old Blog will change business and organizational practices at any hospital. But it certainly makes me feel better to write about it, and know that what I write is being read by appreciative readers like you.

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  20. What horrible coldness! I am so sorry you had this experience. And I’m so sorry you didn’t have someone else with you – I mean someone who knew and cared about you.

    Both my parents died recently – Dad two weeks ago, Mom two months before him. I wasn’t able to be with either of them at the time – they lived in South Africa, and I couldn’t get to Mom from the US in time, whereas in Dad’s case I said my goodbyes before I left (after Mom’s funeral). We all knew (or at least hoped, for his sake) he wouldn’t outlive her for long, and it’s an awfully long way to travel. But my sisters with with my Mom at the hospital when she died, and the nurses were very kind.

    It’s appalling, really, that a veterinarian will usually send one a condolence card after a beloved pet dies … but physicians don’t seem to. Simply a different marketing model? Or, as you suggest, distancing themselves to avoid the pain of loss? Whatever the reason, it seems not fully human to me.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you for your kind words, Nina. Yes, from the day I moved to the US, every time I said goodbye it was with the thought that might be the last time. I was greatly blessed to be able to spend three months with them over Christmas, after my Mom was diagnosed with Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer … Such a very happy time, which greatly eased the sadness when they did die. I actually blogged about it, if you’d care to stop by… 🙂

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  21. I am so sorry you had to experience such insensitivity. I hope your dreadful experience isn’t too common. Thank goodness you had one kind person to soften the blow a little. Is it really that hard for people to show compassion? Very sad.

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    • Thank you for your sensitive comment, Marje. With regard to your question, I think most people, including probably sometimes ourselves, are so wrapped up in their own thoughts and problems they don’t see what’s going on with those around them.

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  22. This Is so very hard and so very sad to read. I hope you shared your thoughts with the hospital. It really wouldn’t hurt for institutions to have a bereavement expert on hand to help families at times like that.

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    • No, Bernadette, I didn’t share my experiences with the hospital. Too easy for them to write off as a one-off event or the complaint of a cranky old lady. As for “bereavement experts,” actually there is such a staff, but not for the bedside. They run bereavement groups in the greater community. Unfortunately no one told me about them just after Bill died. I had to find out about them for myself afterwards.

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  23. I don’t think I could ever be numb to death but that may be why I’m not in the healthcare industry. But what about someone on staff for the living who go through so much caring for a loved one. And how much effort could it be just to acknowledge your suffering? Kindness could be a nod of the head or a touch of the hand or a hug. It doesn’t take much but it goes a long way.

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  24. Steered here from Victo’s blog. I am so very sorry for your loss and sorry for the treatment you received at such a difficult and painful time in your life. Reminds me of the care I received when I had to have my son by emergency C-section almost 7 weeks early. It was fragmented while I was in the hospital and not nearly enough once I was discharged from the hospital 2 days after major surgery/ birth.

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  25. I’m so sorry for your loss and for the way your were treated. Kindness in these situations would not seem too much to ask, whether the people who were there, were involved with your husband or not, they should have been aware of your plight and offered some compassion. A very sad read, I do wish you well.

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  26. I’m so sorry to hear of your very sad, cold and bad experience. I found the link to this post on “Behind The White Coat”. I wonder what made all those people react in such a distant way. My experience was a very different one. My Dad passed away last February. He had dementia for 2 years and in the end was staying in a specialized care facility. Everyone was wonderful with him and from what I knew and experienced over the short time I was there with us as well. See, I live in Australia and my parents are still back in Switzerland. It had been 5 years since I’ve last seen them. It was not to be expected although he was already very old. I think he could just find closure by seeing me and his grand children again. I was there with him too. It was in the middle of the night when he left us. By coincidence one of my favorite nurses had the night shift. She usually doesn’t do night shifts as she is not well. That night but also over the next days when all the administrative things had to be done, they were supportive, caring and almost uplifting towards my Mom and myself. They treated my Dad’s corps with the utmost respect, helped us cleaning up his things.

    I think this is what their role should be too. Nurses and doctors. Everyone in the health care system. It’s not just about the patient. It’s about the relatives too.

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    • I suspect specialized care facilities, where the families of residents become known to the staff over a period of time, are quite different, wherever in first world countries (such as Switzerland) they are located. An intensive care unit in a regular hospital, where patients may be admitted only a few days before they die, are operated and staffed somewhat differently, at least here in the United States. But I do agree with you. It’s not just about the patient — at least not right after the patient has died.

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  27. Oh Nina. I was too upset to read all the comments here as closely as I should or would like, but my first thought after the horror of it and wanting to give you a long hug, was have you told the hospital how you were treated? They need to learn from this – and how, if they simply never know? But my next thought – and this seems much more important – have you told Antonia what her warmth meant to you? And how that has remained with you and meant such a lot? It might mean a lot to her to know that. And for you, another opportunity to remember her act of kindness and draw from it.
    Much love. XXX

    Liked by 1 person

    • The hug and the “much love” I gladly welcome, Dapplegrey. But as for complaining to the hospital — I had too many other things on my mind. Besides, as I’ve already noted in reply to another comment, a complaint from me could easily be brushed off as a one-off thing from a cranky old lady who had declined an earlier offer of the assistance of clergy. As for Antonia, I thanked her at the time. Which should be enough, I think. If it makes you feel any better, I did give a copy of this blog post to the counselor who runs the hospital’s six week bereavement group (joining entirely voluntary), in which I enrolled a month or so after Bill died. She can do with it what she feels might be most effective.

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  28. Nina, I’ve read every comment, and could mirror the thoughts! How sad for you to experience the “plight of the survivor” indifference at the hands of the hospital’s business model. I’m shaking my head! Care and compassion for the patient, and family members was part of nursing training years ago. It stayed with me as a nurse practitioner.
    It’s good to know you found a clinical psychologist specializing in care and bereavement issues. For certain, you are strong and finding your way. I’m left with not a religious, heavenly thought, but of that starry sky, and Bill “twinkling at you in the night.” Many hugs for you, Nina! 💛 Christine (Elizabeth)

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  29. I haven’t been very active on wordpress these last months and only today read about your loss and your experiences during this time. My father died in March after having been terribly ill. We met a few kind doctors and nurses but also many that were cold, insensitive and arrogant. I think I have an idea how awful this time must have been for you and I am feeling with you. I hope that the good memories will make these last awful ones fade away. My best regards, Trina

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  30. Gwen Southgate

    I just ‘lost’ my comment, but let me try again…. (Does this mean you get both copies? If so, I’m sorry about that,)

    What a sad, sad epilogue to your too-brief-but-good years with Bill. Thank goodness there’s no after-life (I hope!) so he never had to share your suffering when the care-givers ‘caring’ so abruptly ceased–apart from Antonia. Thank goodness for the Antonias of this world, too! Our youngest daughter– a highly empathetic hugger and probably very Antonia-like–was for 19 years a hospital respiratory therapist, and I would like to share this blog with her. May I? (In the long run, she found it too stressful, witnessing all that pain and suffering on a daily basis, and is now earning less than a living wage working full time for Walmart. But that’s a long story….)

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  31. Oh Gwen, of course you may show your daughter the blog post. It’s available to the entire English-reading world, should anyone in that world choose to read it. Why not Ms. Southgate too?

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  32. I remember once my aging mother was taken to a distinguished university-town hospital, and it so happened that her ward was only half full at best. What luck! What attention she got then, doctors passing daily to say hello and glance at her chart, field her anxieties — all of this billed to Medicare. That week my mother was, in a sense, helping keep the hospital in the black. But when all the beds are full, the treatment changes. Life under capitalism. Best, Wm.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. That was a very hard experience but you can write about it.My husband died a year earlier and I cannot write about it the way you have.However though the doctor never spoke to me all the other people around did and even though it was in the A and E I was able to sit for nearly three hours with him.I sang Psalms to him not for religious reasons but just hoping to hear my voice would soothe him which seemed to do so as he smiled at me.All the nurses and doctors were standing just outside the little cubicle listening [ I didn’t know till later].They certainly gave me all thehy could.
    The problem is when one gets home…. is it home any more? Before that I kept him here for 8 months.Maybe that’s why I still feel weak.You write so well, whatever the topic.I enjoyed reading several posts. of yours today
    I have not been to any bereavement groups.A man I know who is still married has already noted 3 women in his street who are “free”…. just in case his wife drops dead.So they do act differeently than women.:)

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    • You were evidently more fortunate in your hospital experience with your husband than I was, Kate. And yes, coming home is very hard, because it’s now a different place — empty of the other person. I can’t say attending a bereavement group “helps,” but I did find it instructive to hear other people speak of who they have lost and how they feel about it. It also shows you that you’re not alone in what you’re experiencing.

      As for men, yes they’re different. But let’s not malign them all. Many are warm, kind, tender and hurting badly at the loss of a beloved wife. However, more than women, some men do keep their sorrow inside and try to tough it out alone, others seem helpless to care for themselves and quickly fall into any new relationship with a reasonably presentable woman that will provide hot meals, clean sheets, and someone to listen to whatever they want to say. Perhaps the man you mention at the end of your comment is unhappy in his marriage and has chosen this way of telling you that, or has been taking care of a very sick woman for a long time and feels overburdened. I cannot speculate, since I don’t know the circumstances in which he made this remark.

      Liked by 1 person

  34. I think he was trying to encourage me to look for a new man now.But I don’t want to look after anyone now.I am still very tired and also my husband is still with me in my dreams.
    I just didn’t get notified about any bereavement groups and was busy arranging everything.You write so well,I like to read your old posts.:)

    Liked by 1 person

  35. I’m so sorry you had to go through such a terrible situation that was made worse by the hospital personnel. No one can control death but people can take responsibility for their insensitivity. I do a lot of work with Hospice patients and I think it is a sacred and awesome responsibility. There is no excuse for their behavior.

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  36. I’m glad you were there for his passing and sorry you didn’t get what you needed emotionally from the healthcare people around you. The healthcare people around my parents were quite wonderful and helpful. Your experience isn’t everywhere. But you are so correct. A simple I’m sorry isn’t much to do or much to ask. To quietly recognize this monumental passing is simply the kind and right thing to do.

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