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Making space: the impact of the work on the staff member.

Sharna discusses the way her current loss linked to a past loss.
I definitely think that. I definitely think that because from doing that, you can work out what you’re feeling. And you can connect it to maybe things that have happened in your past and your personal experience and kind of your belief system. And it does kind of give you some closure.
Yeah. So when before I was a social worker, and I informally looked after my Nan, who had vascular dementia, and I remember she passed away in hospital. Well, I was very lucky that me and my mum, who were very close to her, got to spend a lot of time with her before she passed away. And there was a really significant moment in that she’d got really confused before. And they said she wasn’t really making any sense. There was like a moment, a few [AUDIO OUT] [INAUDIBLE] I remember to be in. She was really confused again, unable to have a conversation.
And I remember my mum asking her, because she was Catholic and very religious– my mum even asked her, are you ready to go? Are you ready to die? And she said, I don’t know. And she was in her 80s at this time. Well, I remember having the opportunity to explain to her how much she meant to me and how much I loved her. And things that being difficult and strained before this because sometimes she could be quite paranoid, which, with vascular dementia, is not uncommon. But at the time, I didn’t have that knowledge. So I was very confused about why she was reacting to me in a certain way.
She’d say that I was stealing things from her or things had gone missing. So I was just confused. And I found it quite difficult at times to be with her because of that. Whereas now, I know that was her dementia kind of affecting her cognition. But we had this special moment, and I just value so much. I that time to say goodbye to her and to say how much I loved her. And what worries me is that this man, he didn’t have any family. I just don’t like the idea that he was alone with no one that cared about him potentially when he passed away.
But that experience with my Nan, I’m so intensely grateful for it because I would have not been able to manage her death as well if I’d felt that I didn’t get to say goodbye. And I remember watching on the TV a family with a family member in a care home who was dying. And she wasn’t conscious at the time, but they were allowed to see her. But because of the visiting restrictions, they didn’t have the same opportunity that I had to say actually goodbye, we love you so much. You mean the world to us. She was already unconscious, so she might not heard them even talking.
It feels like in that way, the virus robs people of closure in a way. I guess, not everyone is as lucky to have the opportunity that I had.

In this video, Sharna describes how the death of her patient brought to mind previous losses. Notice how the realisation of this required time and space to reflect, and a willingness to “go there”.

It is a difficult balance to strike: the demands of challenging work and the need to reflect on its impact. How do you strike the balance?

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Grief, Loss, and Dying During COVID-19

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