Dealing with Grief: How to Cope when clients pass away

Dealing with Grief: How to Cope when clients pass away

User Profile By Del Mcalister   Australia

Found In: Activities Articles

Working in aged care is extremely interesting and rewarding, but it’s also heartbreaking as most of our clients end up dying.  We are in a constant state of grief yet most of us push the sadness aside and muster up the strength to carry on for the sake of the others.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

Working in senior care can be deeply fulfilling, yet it carries the heavy weight of heartbreak as many of our clients inevitably pass away.

While we often put on a brave face and muster the strength to carry on for the sake of those we care for, it's essential to recognize the profound grief that resides within us.

Unresolved grief can give rise to what we call 'compounded grief,' a term that encompasses layers of unacknowledged and unresolved sorrow. Since attending funeral services may not always be possible, we must discover our own ways to cope with the regular losses we experience in this field.

So, what can we do to navigate this emotional terrain effectively?

1. Embrace Emotions

We mustn't suppress or internalize our sadness. Emotions, especially those associated with grief, should not be hidden away or ignored. Instead, we must remain connected to our feelings and find healthy outlets to process them. These can include:

  • Talking to a trusted friend or family member.
  • Journaling our thoughts and emotions.
  • Engaging in creative activities like art.

2. Find Comfort

Everyone copes with grief differently, so it's crucial to discover what brings comfort on a personal level. Some strategies to consider include:

  • Seeking solace in conversations with close friends or family.
  • Taking peaceful walks in nature.
  • Listening to soothing music.
  • Engaging in hobbies that bring joy.
  • Spending time with pets.
  • Exploring spiritual practices like prayer and meditation.
  • Connecting with nature through gardening.
  • Expressing oneself through art.
  • Practicing mindfulness.
  • Joining a grief support group for communal healing.

3. Debrief with Colleagues

Sharing experiences and grief with colleagues can be therapeutic. These support groups, ideally facilitated by a chaplain or someone with counseling skills, allow staff to support each other in their journey of grieving the loss of a resident. As the saying goes, "A problem shared is a problem halved."

4. Self-Care

Self-care is paramount. Nurture your own well-being by indulging in activities that enhance your sense of self. These could include:

  • Dining out at a favorite restaurant.
  • Enjoying a soothing massage.
  • Visiting the hairdresser for a pampering session.
  • Treating yourself to a day spa experience.
  • Engaging in leisure activities like golf.
  • Planning a holiday getaway.
  • Embracing the therapeutic beauty of the outdoors, such as leisurely walks along the beach or in the forest.
  • Finding tranquility in the serenity of gardens.
  • Watching the sunset, a simple yet therapeutic pleasure that costs nothing.

5. Build Resilience

There is a valuable lesson in a fable about two trees - the willow and the oak. The willow, despite admiring the oak's strength, ultimately proved more resilient during a severe storm.

Resilience is not about suppressing grief but rather the strength to embrace and process it. It enables us to absorb sadness and discover ways to live with it. Building resilience involves accessing resources, seeking support from caring individuals, and finding avenues for healing when our hearts ache.

In this field of senior care, where we witness both the joys and sorrows of life, it's crucial to acknowledge and address the emotional toll it takes. By adopting these strategies, caregivers can better manage their grief, find solace in each other's company, and continue to provide compassionate care with a stronger spirit.

User Profile
? Meet the author
Del Mcalister

Save time with 1000's of meaningful
activity ideas for every occasion.

Enter your email address to collect your free activities.

✓ 100% Privacy ✓ No Spam

Comments   Post a Comment

Almira 23rd Jan 2019 Recreational Activity Officer
This is so true....I am so struck with every bit of the line in this article . Extremely useful to us who deals with a lot of aged people under our care.
Talita 27th Jan 2019
Thanks for your feedback Almira
Maria 3rd Apr 2017 Lifestyle Assistant
Thank you for posting this article. My CM is organizing a seminar on Dealing with Grief, any suggestions whom we can contact to talk about it in our facility. I will really appreciate your suggestions. Thanks
Del 4th Apr 2017 activities officer
I'm available to come and talk at facilities. Please contact me directly- [email protected]
Del 30th Mar 2017 activities officer
It looks like my article was perfect timing for so many of you. Xx
Kathleen 30th Mar 2017 Supervisor/ Activity Coordinator
Thank you for this wonderful article Del.
Our Adult Day program has lost four of our seniors already this year. On top of that, one of my co-workers lost an Uncle and my other co-worker lost a very dear friend of the family to a MVI recently. We have all been struggling with our own grief in our own way. I am giving each of my staff a copy of this and we will be talking it over at our staff meeting next week. Our client losses were not expected so were a double blow to us and our clients.
As a group we make small photo albums for the families of their loved ones time with our program, and have everyone sign a card of thanks to the family for sharing their loved one with all of us. We pass the photo album around our group and reminisce as a way of healing with our program attendees. They are encouraged to write down a funny memory or a special moment they remember of the person who has died. We put these in the book as well. This helps all of us heal and the families like the books too. I think as caregivers we often forget to take time to grieve ourselves. That is why I so appreciate your article. It is grounding. Thank you.
Del 30th Mar 2017 activities officer
So glad the article was published just at the right time for you Kathleen x
Terri 28th Mar 2017 Therapy assistant
I too can only say thank you with all my heart. I was just saying today to a colleague how do you cope as we spoke of a resident who was coming back from hospital palletive care. We spoke that it feels at times that you are in a constant feeling of grief as we see residents that you love and care for pass on.
I will be taking your article into work tomorrow to share. Thank you again.
Talita 29th Mar 2017
All the best of luck to you Terri. Thanks for your feedback.
Sue 28th Mar 2017 Activities Aide
THank you so much for this timely article.
A month ago our family experienced the heartache of losing our young officer and his young friend in a tragic accident. My nephew was the driver and fell asleep at the wheel. Both were killed at the scene. I never had a chance to say goodbye to him, and my sister has been brittle dealing with her own grief and heartache.
TOday, I sat with one of my elder friends as he passed on. Family was not able to be with him, so I took my ukulele and sang hymns and read psalms. I felt honored to be part of his going on. In our dementia unit, such passing is a blessing as the latter stages of the disease take away life vitality. As his life departed, I asked him to tell my nephew how much I love him and miss him.
Later when family arrived, they felt so appreciative that I was there in those moments.
But the blessing is mine. This fine man had spent his life serving the church and shared a year with us and much joy.

With grief, I try to remember the joys.
Talita 29th Mar 2017
What a touching story Sue. Thinking of you and wishing you all the best x
Kath 28th Mar 2017 Lifestyle Coordinator
Thank you, so much to say about this and how needed it is, all I can do right now is say thank you.
Talita 29th Mar 2017
Thank you Kath for posting. I hope all is well.
Del 28th Mar 2017 activities officer
Del has submitted an article: Dealing with Grief
No Avatar