Going to the funeral or the wake feels to me like something to do for myself depending on the relationship I have had with the child and their family. I feel I am part of the family’s experience and my own experience of saying goodbye. That gives me a sense of closure.
Lynn Helfand, Social Worker
I’m here to help the family no matter what the outcome is. As far as setting boundaries, know what they are and recognize within yourself that you’re having a hard time with a patient. We have a really good team and we can read each other pretty well. We can also voice to each other that we’re having a hard time and someone else will step in. We’re lucky to have a staff team of good people where we can do that. The social workers have helped us too. We have a casual get together where we can laugh and cry when we need to.
Heather Bastardi RN
I think having other things in my life that are very important other than medicine is really helpful. For example, going back and forth to church helps me. Also, I’ve spent many weeks sitting in a beautiful place; I play the banjo and the fiddle; I’m intense about baseball, and I love movies. Having other intense interests helps me sometimes deal with the sadness.
Halcombe Grier MD, Pediatric Oncologist
There are times when I actually find it very difficult. Sometimes I have to remind myself that it is exhausting and it is ok to take breaks. I work part time. The rest of my life is not about the work aspects of my life. One of the things that I have wished I could do more on a very personal level is to live in the moment. I am not very good at it. I keep trying to be aware of what I am doing and what I am not doing. Personally, it has been something that I am probably more aware of now than if I had not worked in this job.
Lynn Helfand, Social Worker
Voicing my feelings
I started out in a clinical setting that involved a lot of death and dying. I then moved to a non clinical setting and came back to a clinical setting two years ago into a position that involves a lot of death. I was really aware of my own boundaries when I started in this position and how I can take care of myself. I’m not religious but I’ve become much more spiritual since I began this position. I also keep a journal at my house to write my feelings. I try to be aware of myself with the journal.
Jodi Elder, Nurse
I’m figuring it out
I do not really know. I actually just started going to the gym which I have never done before in my life. It is a good relief. I am prayful. I definitely say prayers. I do not really have any great self-care strategies. I get a lot of migraines so that is probably a bad thing. I feel I must internalize some of it a little bit.
Sometimes talking about the experience is great with even people who have no idea. They may have heard a few stories, but do not really get it to the point you’ve experienced it, so you can just talk and tell these stories. Knowing you have people who you can talk to about things with if you want to, and knowing they are there for you if you don’t want to talk about things is helpful.
Sara Mastrofranseco, Child Life Specialist
Taking care of myself separately
I feel like I step up to the occasion that I need to separate myself and my feelings, and I can be upset about this, but I’m also a professional. I’m available to the families, and I do care, but there has to be a distance and a separation. There are definitely some situations when I’ve been teary in an environment with parents, and I think that is ok to show that you’re emotionally available too, but you have to really put the families first. What their needs are goes first, not your need to hug the parent to feel better about it. You have to take care of yourself separately.
Johanna Black, Child Life Specialist
One of the ways that I’ve learned to help myself is that I’ve taken a lot of the wisdom that I’ve learned from the kids who have died and their families their siblings, their parents, their grandparents and I use their artwork, their stories, their narratives to teach other professionals. I’m trying to teach other people how to make the grieving process easier, how to prepare for a death, or how to make meaning of suffering. So I use what I’m learning and I use the stories to help other people, and it helps me to do that, because in that way, sort of the spirit of the kids and the families lives on.
Laura Basili PhD, Clinical Psychologist
Using different resources
I’ve gotten to know the families of some of the children who have passed away very well, and I will talk to them afterwards if they want to do so. I’ll always offer to them, if they want, to set up a time to talk, and many have come back, and we’ve sat together and gone over the data again and talked about everything from start to finish. I always tell them to call me because they are going to have questions, they are going to have doubts again, and they need to be able to vent those, not to hold on to them. I always want them to call me, and many do.
Then I think over the last few years the nursing staff has organized a bereavement group in the ICU and I think that’s been a very good source to talk about families and death and the process of it. At times, I will mention it to my family, for instance talk to my wife and say “I’ve been looking after this little one for so many weeks or months and he passed away, it’s very sad.” So I think it helps to have somebody who knows me, but is external to the whole process that helps as well. So I think that I unconsciously utilize all of those resources.
Peter Laussen MD, Chief, Department of Critical Care Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto