Working in hospice is a trip. Some days are really hard and I’m thankful to have coworkers and some friends who get it.
Death is an ever looming presence in this job and sometimes when a patient dies it hits like a gut punch.
Most people don’t get it, the typical response is “well they were on hospice so it wasn’t unexpected so why are you feeling ___________?”
Well yes, they WERE on hospice.
But also, NO….
I’m one of these lucky social workers who have quite a vivid imagination and this works to my advantage and disadvantage. While I can empathize with the patients or their families because I can try to imagine what they’re going thru (to the best of my ability) but unfortunately when they pass, I can also rabbit hole on that experience as well. We don’t always KNOW and when someone is alone at that moment, we never know. Was it quick? Was it painful? Were they scared? Particularly right now when it is hard to see patients in homes and facilities, as a social worker or a chaplain. Sure- there’s some ways around it if things are “imminent” but you don’t always know. Sometimes it’s more rapid than anticipated or a complete surprise. I think about it too much for my own good, probably. It goes downhill from there and snowballs, but I personally take solace in the fact that I still care this much. But not with all patients. Not that I don’t care for them all, but I’m sure there’s some projection, transference, something that makes some harder than others. Maybe it has to do with how long you work with someone. Maybe they remind you of someone: consciously or subconsciously, or they represent something or someone we fear or worry about. Lots of possibilities. Maybe it simply has to do with my control issues. My version of denial of my own mortality. I’m not sure really. But regardless, some days, some patients, some deaths, hit harder and last longer than others.
Keep doing the good work. That’s all we can do.