Nurses are both blessed and cursed to be with patients from the very first moments of life until their final breath. With those last breaths, each patient leaves someone behind. How do nurses handle the loss and grief that comes along with patients dying? How do they help the families and loved ones of deceased patients? Each person, no matter their background, must grieve the death of a loved one, but there is no right way to grieve and no two people will have the same reaction to death. It is the duty of nurses to respect the wishes and grieving process of each and every culture; of each and every individual (Verosky, 2006). This paper will address J. William Worden’s four tasks of mourning as well as the nursing implications involved – both when taking care of patients’ families and when coping with the loss of patients themselves.
The Four Tasks of Mourning
According to Leming and Dickinson (2016), in 1982, J. William Worden proposed the idea of a task-based mourning system, rather than a linear one. According to Worden, each of the four proposed tasks must be accomplished so that return to life can take place. If these four tasks remain unfinished by the mourner, further growth and development can be impaired. While these tasks are often difficult to navigate, these steps require effort and work; one cannot simply get better by ignoring the problem (Leming & Dickinson, 2016). It is essential that nurses provide a safe environment for survivors to begin the mourning process and move through all four tasks.
As cited by Leming and Dickinson (2016), Worden’s first task requires the mourner to accept the death of their loved one. This phase requires mourners to internalize the truth of the death and come to terms with ...
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...e with life by moving forward in a healthy manner (Leming & Dickinson, 2016). This often requires a change in the model of belief about life, defining a new sets of goals, and creating a conscious understanding of the change in circumstance (Fast, 2003). According to Leming and Dickinson (2016), to many survivor’s, this step can cause deep emotional pain. Often, mourners feel as though the are being disloyal to the deceased by moving on. However, it is vitally important to note the difference between moving on and forgetting (Leming & Dickinson, 2016). The task of readjusting to the world without the deceased, while retaining the memories of their loved one, faces the survivor each day (Rich, 2005). It is possible, even essential, to remember the deceased. However, those cherished moments should not interfere with the mourner continuing to create a healthy lifestyle.
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