Grieving the loss of a Resident

There was a resident not too long ago that passed  away without saying goodbye to me. One morning I  arrived to her bedroom to find her no more; a  sudden departure that I wasn’t expecting. My heart  grieved. Days prior we had joked and talked about  life, a prayer of blessing and a “see you later”; and  now she was gone. I sincerely missed her, and the  many conversations we had. I realized at that point  how close I had gotten to her. This wasn’t the first  time I felt the void of someone I ministered to, and  indeed it wasn’t going to be the last time either. 

I visit almost all the residents at the nursing home.  When I introduce myself to them, I not only let them  know of the role I have within the institution as the  chaplain, but I also let them know about the family  man that I am, and about my life in general.  Reciprocally I learn about their lives, family,  children, friends, community, what they like, where  they come from, what they used to do… etc. Within  a few visits they have become part of my life, and for  many I have become part of their life as well. I get to  know their family members and get to see the bond  of love each one has. All of this is important to me to  bring spiritual and eternal value to our beloved  residents and their families. Inevitably one begins  to selflessly love the residents for who they are, and  hence feel affected when they suffer. 

So, to all of the sudden come to an empty bed where  for a few months or years there was the welcoming smile  of a loved resident is sad and heart breaking. But it is  real, and it is part of life.

I have conversed with nurses, PSWs (Personal Support Worker) and those  working closely to the residents, and alike it is  challenging the passing of one of the residents  that we have become close to. We all go through  these challenges. Grief sets in and can be  distracting for us, not only as we do our work but  also in the wholeness of our life. 

Grief is real and unstoppable but thankfully  there are ways to cope with the burden of a  resident’s departure. It is recommendable that  we express the pain. We all have different ways  to deal with it, and that is okay. It is good that we  know well how our emotions work so we can  subordinate them. However it is also important  to share the pain with one’s community, among  our peers; and create an environment of trust  where we can share the emotions surrounding  the loss of a resident. This helps to bring closure  to our soul and be able to continue to serve all  the residents in our care. Nursing homes need to  create such an environment once a month where  we can freely and openly express our grief. 

Working in a Nursing Home, I am reminded of  how fragile life is, but also how important it is to  enjoy family, friends, and coworkers and people  in general, because this is life. May the Lord  bless the work of your hands and the care you bring to the residents!

by Rev. Ludwing

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