Coping with Loss/death/dying

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Question
Hi ms. Flint, my grandma past away a few weeks ago. I haven't been able to be me since her death. She was critically ill. She asked me to let her go naturally by asking her doctors to remove her feeding tube and register her as DNR/dni. A hospice doctor was assigned to her care as her new primary care doctor. Hours after they stopped her feeding and oxygen and turned off the monitor, I saw her fidget as she was breathing much more slowly. Then, she died. Since then, I can't stop but think I killed her because what if her doctors intubated her or performed CPR? What if the nurses intervene and reinsert her feeding tube? She might have lived. Honestly, I have been feeling so guilty and ashamed of myself for a few weeks now. Every time her caller id shows up, I thought it might have been her on the other line. Unfortunately it's my uncle calling. I'm just so hurt and angry. I yell and ignored everyone even strangers. I really don't know what to do. I cry myself to sleep every night.

Answer
Dear Chris:

I'm so sorry for your loss.  It made me re-live the pain I endured when my grandma passed away.  Grandmothers are so important and if you had a loving one, as I did, you have surely been blessed.

It was not your fault that your grandmother died.  Sweetie, she sounds as though she was alert and knew what she wanted and she knew by asking you to do these things, she could be assured that you would respect her wishes.  This is very important to an older person.   So often when an elderly person is suffering declining health, she has no one who will listen to her/him.  As a nurse I have seen people completely ignore their mothers' wishes out of selfish reasons.  They, as the children, do not want to 'lose their parent' so they refuse to declare them as a DNR.  As my husband and I grew older and attended so many funerals of loved ones and friends,we would find ourselves leaving the services saying things like, "that was a nice service, but when I die, just do so and so...."   When my husband saw his mother in ICU and suffering on a ventilator, he left that hospital saying, "I'm telling you right now...do not let anyone put me on a vent!"  It would be very difficult for me to have to make a decision if he needed an airway, but he saw what his mother went through and does not want that for himself; he has trusted me to respect his decision.  Just as your grandma knew that she could trust that you would respect her wishes and carry them out.

Our decisions are never easy and God didn't promise us that life would be easy.  Whenever you begin to feel guilty, just remember her words, her trust in you and that she is now in peace.

I believe you are a very strong person and your grandmother is very proud of you.  I know it was difficult for you to watch her die but when the human body starts to shut down, you will see twitching and even reflexes.  That was a normal reaction.  

Be proud of yourself, Chris.  Your grandmother had a last request and she entrusted you with it.  Please let me know how you progress.  

Coping with Loss

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Joanne Flint

Expertise

Dealing with the death of close family members and loss of a friend. Dealing with betrayal; how to accept it, deal with it and move on.

Experience

I lost my parents, who died less than eight months apart and a newborn son three months following the death of my mother. A year following this, my brother died suddenly and a 19 year old cousin was crushed to death in a car accident on his birthday. Now I am facing the impending death of a very good friend. I have also dealt with the death of a husband. I have found that talking with people with similiar experiences has helped me and I have been told that it has also helped them greatly.

Education/Credentials
A licensed nurse for twenty four years with several years working on a Psych ward as well as being the Executive Director and Director of Nursing Services for a Group Home for mentally ill and mentally retarded.

Awards and Honors
Awarded top clinical and top academic grade at my nursing graduation. Also was a member of the English Honors' Class while attending a local college.

Past/Present Clients
I don't share information about people with whom I talk, unless given permission. I am not a doctor, but I have given insight and hope to people just like myself.

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