What Does Grief and Bereavement Have To Do With Wound Care?

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By Aletha Tippett MD

The topic of grief and bereavement is near to my heart right now as I just lost my beloved therapy dog, Barney, suddenly to hemangiosarcoma after years of service. He was an important and valued part of our healing community and will be mourned for a long time.

But what does grief and bereavement have to do with wounds? Well, grief doesn't just happen with death, it can happen with any loss. What is a wound, if not loss? Loss of function, loss of appearance, loss of desirability, loss of health, possibly loss of limb and maybe even loss of life. So grief is a real accompaniment to wounds, with all Elisabeth Kubler Ross' five stages possible and evident: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These five stages do not come in order, but can crossover anytime, and sometimes don't occur at all. If we are sensitive to the grief we can recognize some of the symptoms. This would help us understand and work with our patients in a more healing and compassionate manner.

Bereavement is mourning, the condition of having been deprived of something or someone valued. Grief is a natural response to loss. It's the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief will be. Grief can occur with any loss, including:

  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one's serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home

The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. However, even subtle losses can lead to grief. For example, you might experience grief after moving away from home, graduating from college, changing jobs, selling your family home, or retiring from a career you loved.

Grief and bereavement affects not only our wound patients, but the caregivers too. They suffer loss when their treatments don't work, when their patient loses their limb or life, or when their patient leaves them.

Because wounds involve loss, it is important to consider grief and bereavement and how it affects our patients and ourselves. It is so important that at the 5th Palliative Wound Care Conference May 14-16, 2015 in Orlando, Florida, will have a lecture and workshop on grief and bereavement, presented by Michelle Weckman, MD.

About The Author
Aletha Tippett MD is a family medicine and wound care expert, founder and president of the Hope of Healing Foundation®, family physician, and international speaker on wound care.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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