Thursday, February 4, 2010

if only

"I never should have left" "I wanted to be there" "If only" "If only"

It seems that I've heard hundreds of stories beginning this way. Because of the work I do as a hospice nurse, people frequently recount stories of loss. So many walk around with regret, wishing that they had been present, holding the hand, at the moment their loved one passed from this life to the next.

It is a heavy burden to bear, this baggage of regret.

There is something I have come to believe in my decade or so of hospice practice, and I try to share it with all my families:

I believe that people have some ability to choose- even at death's door- and I believe that some people choose to wait until they are alone to pass. I have witnessed this over and over. I have heard countless stories from my co-workers. Stories of families who sat vigil- wating, waiting- but the passing did not happen until they were exhausted or starving and left the room 'only for a moment'

Sometimes, watching, I think that is just to hard for someone to leave while the people they love are right there.

Some burdens are just to difficult to carry. If you are walking around toting a bag of regrets for things done or not done, just put it down. No one who loved you would want you to carry them.

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  1. This is a very powerful and poignant message, Sally. I believe you are probably right. The guilt would be a terrible burden, and it probably isn't what loved ones would want. Thank you for posting this.

  2. caring for someone who is dying is a hard enough experience w/o adding regret to the grief.... don't know why I felt so compelled to blog about it yesterday...

  3. I am sure you are right about people not leaving whilst their loved ones are present. I have had several examples of this from my own family.

  4. A wonderful message. I'm sure you're right about the guilt of not being there with the loved one. I happened to be with each of my parents when they died. My mother was in a nursing home with hospice and we expected it. My father was in the hospital and I was not expecting it.

    Straight From Hel

  5. What a great message. We all carry our own guilt about something. What a burden -unnecessary.

    Wonderful post.

  6. so much of the guilt we carry is unnecessary- isn't it?