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Loss at work: the emotional impact of the pandemic

Sharna describes the expereince of loss at work: the emotional impact of the pandemic.
One of the things I really struggled with is that when obviously the new guidelines came out, the team was split up, and really close, supportive colleagues were moved to different teams. Some colleagues are also shielding at the moment. So there was only very few of us left actually in the office. People who I was close with had gone. So your social support network was reduced significantly.
And also, I think it’s just, you worry that because you don’t have the up-to-date information that you personally collected; that you have everything you need to make a decision about what someone will need– so I think there’s been occasions when I’ve been worried that someone’s going to go home, and that they’re going to die because the plans weren’t appropriate, and that will be my fault because you’re making very quick, rapid decisions. And although you’re doing your best to manage any risks, risk is still there. You can’t minimise it.
And I think for a lot of us, lots of patients that we worked with long-term, whether that’s because they’ve been in hospital for a long time, or whether– we do have a few people who come in to hospital quite often because they are chronically unwell. Those people that you’re used to, they passed away from COVID. And you know them so well. It’s really difficult. There’s one gentleman that I was really– I really just loved working with him because he was just a really pleasant, lovely man, and he was always so grateful and thankful for my support. And he loved his carers. He was just a really, really nice man.
And I found out recently that he died just because a colleague was talking about it in passing. And I nearly cried in the office because I just thought, he’s gone, someone that I cared about in obviously in a professional session quite a lot. And sometimes, if you don’t have the outlet, or you don’t get to talk about it, it comes out when you’re at home. I remember thinking about it. And I was worrying that he was on his own when it happened. And I was putting the washing out in the garden, and I just felt myself crying.
So and I think as well sometimes, certain colleagues they’re not the most forthright in explaining how they feel about what we’re doing. People just want to on with the job and go home back to their families. So some people are really struggling, but they won’t be articulate in how it feels because there is sometimes a bit of a culture of, oh, just get on with it. Don’t think about it too much. But if you don’t think about it, or you don’t reflect on it, it’s going to come out. It’s going to come out down the line. And it’s probably going to be a lot worse than actually dealing with it and talking about how you feel.

In this video, we asked Sharna to reflect on the emotional impact of changes that have come about due to the pandemic. She then discusses the death of a patient and how it affected her.

This moving example of loss and change at work demonstrates the ways in which the concepts we have been learning about are experienced in the daily lives of staff and patients. Please share below what it brings to mind for you.

What do you think about the idea of having to “just get on with things” in the way that many of us are expected to do in our personal and working lives? Can you foresee any negative consequences from this approach?

We’ve just learned about how current losses can bring to mind past losses. In the next video, we’ll hear Sharna describe how the process of slowing down and reflecting can help make explicit the personal reverberations of a loss at work.

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Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

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