Reflections on Grief

As nurses, we sometimes forget the impact our actions have on our patients and families. Remembering the human connection and importance of showing empathy and compassion is one of the most vital things we can do. People do not always remember what we do, but they definitely remember how we make them feel.

On January 7, my dear father, Wade L. Hampton, passed away in my arms, and with our family gathered around him, holding his hands, and sharing our love. I was blessed to have been able to hold onto him during his last few hours. I consider this to be such a gift and will forever be grateful that I was able to provide him with comfort and support during his final hours.

Anyone who has held the hand (or body) of a dying loved one knows how difficult this can be. I was present during both of my parents’ deaths and the experiences were so different, causing much introspection.

There were some obvious differences due to my age when both of them passed. When my father died, I was 49 and he was 94. Conversely, I was 25 when my mother, Celeste Koger Hampton, died of cancer at the age of 59. We were so close, and I was so young. I had a family of my own to care for and lacked the time I needed to care for myself as I grieved. This made letting go so much harder. I felt I still needed her. There were so many questions I still sought answers to, and her advice (which I had so often rejected) was now precious, yet out of reach.

Having so many years to share with my father made such a difference. His full life allowed for apologies to be made and forgiveness granted; questions to be asked and answered; fun times together; countless memories; leaving nothing unspoken; and so many opportunities for me to give back and show love, as he had always done for me.

The final factor, which was of tremendous importance, was the caring environment which surrounded me at the time of my father’s passing. The ICU staff went so far out of their way to provide comfort, privacy, and compassion. They brought in extra chairs, which we had not even asked for, coffee, snacks, and bottles of water. Tissue boxes were placed in the room, so we never had to search for them. The environment was so supportive and therapeutic.

Finally, many heartfelt thanks to the ICU nurses and staff at Baptist South in Jacksonville, Florida. You will always be remembered for what you did for us and our father.

Disclaimer: My father/editor did not have the opportunity to review this. I will have to step up my game in future posts!

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