Being a family physician we get to hear about the good things going on in patients lives but we also are there for the bad. I have done my best to take care of patients yet no one lives forever. On every patient note I write I try to include a little interesting tidbit about each patient.
Because patients die. I am often involved with their health as it takes a down turn or am surprised and trying to find out what happened to their loved one. I have said the wrong things a few times and insightful things at other times. Here is my guide to talking to a grieving family member.
Ask questions. How are you coping? Is there anything you need? For a husband and/or wife that lost their loved ones I ask how they met? Where was their first date? People realize their loved ones may have died but they do not want them to be forgotten.
Remind them of a funny/interesting interaction you had with their family member. Like I remember the time I gave your husband a cortisone shot in his knee so he could compete in his bowling tournament. Or how excited someone’s recently deceased mother was when she went to her granddaughters wedding.
Leave out the negatives. This is not a time to remind a woman that her husband had cheated on her years back. Or that his kidneys failed because he did not take his blood pressure medications. There is no need to bring up the past at this time.
Continue to ask about how they are doing. It could be 6 months or 6 years but people grieve for different amounts of time. Do not avoid the topic. Widows want to talk about their husbands that have passed. Unless they are there with their new boyfriends.
Take notes on patients. Learn about their lives. Because no one will be here forever. And everyone hopes to be remembered by someone.
The Doc Is In