Living with grief

Few weeks ago I was working in an ICU unit and the hospital announcement went off and I needed to respond to a rapid response on the floor. My colleague and I arrived at the scene first and one of the nursing staff also arrived with heart rate monitor. Minutes later, the entire rapid response team arrived with wheelchair, toolboxes and more monitor to the scene. Since I had arrived to the scene before our on call physician did, I began inquiring the nature and sequences of the event.

This woman in her early 60’s was showing symptoms of tachycardia and shortness of breath. Among her were her family members, all waiting anxiously outside the ICU waiting area. The nursing staff told me they have just learned about the death of their family. The woman was sobbing while continue to experience panic attack.

By this time, all the medical staff have arrived to the scene. Everyone busy connecting monitors, turning on machines, putting on blood pressure cuffs on this woman in front of me.

I walked over to her.
I reached out and held her hand.


No. You are right. This is absolutely not something healthcare professionals are trained to do. You see, we are trained to measure blood pressures, read results, analyze and diagnose someone who shows these signs and symptoms of panic attack. For me to stand next to her, reach out and held her hand, that was definitely not part of our protocols. But in that moment when the pain is so real, the experience of forever losing your love one is so devastated, it seems to me that the only right thing to do is just to reach out. Human to human.


The hardest part of living in grief is the emotions that comes in and out of our everyday life. Those emotions will trigger many of our own thoughts. The feelings of guilt, hopelessness, anxiety, blame, struggles all come down like a thunderstorm in the middle of the desert. You have no where to hide, no where to go and no one to reach out and hold on to for a moment of grace. Sometimes these emotions are stronger on one day and completely tolerable on another day. These emotions makes you feel like sitting on a rollercoaster, they come in waves.


The truth is there is no remedy and solutions for living with grief. Death is part of a process all living entities on this earth will experience. Chimpanzees and elephants feel grief. Dogs and Cats feel grief. Grief is often born from love. The love and appreciations for the others. It originated out of our natural compassion as human beings.

So exactly how do you live with grief while knowing it is a natural part of the evolution of all life forms? Remember the happiest day you and your love one spend? What day was it? How did you feel? What are those emotions you have when you think of that day?

Take time to recognize those feelings. Understand and Validate them. Remember the joy they have given you during this life time however long or short it may have been. Remember the joy, happiness with them. Now, wipe your tears and learn to love yourself the very same way you have loved that someone. The love you have given to that person, now show that same amount of love to yourself.

One of my favorite poem on grief by Joey Beighley:

Fill not your heart with pain and sorrow, but remember me in every tomorrow. Remember the joy, the laughter, the smiles, I’ve only gone to rest a little while. Although my leaving causes pain and grief, my going has ease my hurt and given me relief. So dry your eyes and remember me not as I am now, but as I used to be. Because I will remember you all and look on with a smile, understand, in your hearts, I’ve only gone to rest a little while. As long as I have the love of each of you, I can live my life in the hearts of all of you.


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