Witnessing Death as a Nurse and Supporting the Family

by Miranda

Death is an inevitable part of a nurse’s career. It occurs not only in hospice care settings where death is an expectation but in many other healthcare settings as well. The circumstances surrounding a patient’s death, the level of experience of the nurse, and their coping strategies are all factors that can affect a nurse’s emotions in profound ways. 

Patient Death Affects Nurses

A study published in 2021 surveyed 160 nurses across four hospital units—emergency department, internal medicine, surgery, and intensive care unit—to assess the impact patient death has on nurses. 

Despite only 11% of nurses reporting “that …

How many ways to say ‘dead?’

“Hard to comprehend in the human mind
Impossible to envision leaving yourself behind.”
–Charles Aubrey Rogers
kick the bucket

Nobody wants to actually say the word dead.

We say “passed on,” “passed away,” “kicked the bucket,” “passed,” “gone to heaven,” “deceased,” “expired,” “gone,” “departed,” “fell asleep in Jesus” and a whole host of other phrases. Despite the fact that it happens to 100% of us, we are not the least bit comfortable with that subject and push it away.

Read the obituaries and see how many phrases are used to put lipstick on death. So entertaining to read some of them. Rarely does … Read more...

Heart damage— #griefheart number 205

My heart has suffered permanent damage since the death of my son by suicide. That does not mean I cannot ever find joy. It doesn’t mean I can’t ever have fun. It just means I need to adjust to having a heart that will hurt.

I met with a new friend today. And she reminded me that if this had not happened, I would not have met many of the wonderful new people I have met including all the lovely people who have contributed hearts to this project. I love that it’s become a group effort. This one from Texas. … Read more...

Love you this much – #griefheart number 165

Love you this much
Love you this much

This incredible work of art is by me, a non-illustrator.  If I could have stretched the arms to the edges of the universe, I would have. This is how much I still love my child. Until he died by suicide, I had no idea how much you could love someone that was no longer alive.

But that’s what grief is. The price you pay for having loved someone with all your heart.

What is the #griefheart project?

I explain my #griefheart project here.

See all #griefhearts so far on pinterest or on this blog by… Read more...

Infinity heart – #griefheart number 161

Infinity heart
Infinity heart

An infinity heart is an “I love you forever heart.” I love Charles forever and ever even though he’s not here any longer.

This is actually a tattoo on the arm of my friend Beka Lombardo who suffers from bipolar disorder. Part of her recovery is giving back and being outspoken on the subject. This is what she has to say about her new arm artwork.

“The idea behind this tattoo is that if I ever got to where I felt like I wanted to cut or have suicidal ideations, I just look down and see Joe’s name and I know that … Read more...

Love an addict – #griefheart number 159


Many of us love or have loved an addict. Their disease is not who they are and I want you to know that even when they are actively using, their real selves are alive and suffering. I can see from Charles’ rap lyrics before his suicide that he felt deeply when he was using. That he hated himself, felt guilty, ashamed, depressed and ostracized. But I love him and hated the disease.

quote-left My actions were ugly , teenage druggie, looking for anything to numb me, pathetic, scummy.
But you still love me. I would cry when I wanna die and … Read more...

Neon flashing heart – #griefheart number 156

After 6 years of mental health advocacy, speaking out, being on TV and radio interviews, doing presentations, videos, writing articles, starting this blog, risking rejection by speaking out and all but throwing myself in the middle of the street with a neon flashing sign, we are seeing change. I am referring to understanding that mental health and addiction are illnesses. It’s the collective effort and sharing of millions who are tired of the stigma surrounding substance abuse disorder and mental illness.

Not that we are done. But more people are speaking out and things are starting to … Read more...

Puzzled heart – #griefheart number 154

My heart is often puzzled. Why did this happen? Why didn’t I know? Why wouldn’t he admit to suffering from depression?

I can only speculate and his lyrics have helped me figure it out as much as I will ever know. It’s just really hard to put the pieces of your life back together again. To figure out your direction and purpose. To be able to pull yourself up from the depths of despair and live again.

What is the #griefheart project?

I explain my #griefheart project here.

See all #griefhearts so far on pinterest or on this blog … Read more...

Logan’s heart – #griefheart number 153


This heart is in special remembrance of Logan Neale, a 19-year-old from Midlothian, Virginia who died in a truck crash. Logan was an avid runner who discovered that athletics could help him cope with his anxiety and depression. Logan also struggled with an eating disorder and suicidal ideation.

Like many with depression, Logan was empathetic about others suffering from mental illness and he believed in breaking the stigma that kept people from seeking the care and support they needed.  Like Charles, Logan attended Wasatch Academy in Utah. His mother retrieved this heart from the tree where he died.

The 2016

Oyster heart – #griefheart number 152

Oyster heart
Oyster heart

This oyster heart reminds me of all the family beach trips we took over the years at the Outer Banks. The last trip we took, Charles was suffering a depressive episode and it was hard to get him out of the basement room. He always denied suffering from depression which makes you truly feel helpless and even question if it’s your imagination. I would gently nudge him about coming outside and he’d come out and skim board for a bit and then go back in the basement.

When we went shell hunting, Charles would pick up any shell. He wasn’t … Read more...

Overdose Awareness Day heart – #griefheart number 133

Overdose awareness day heart
Overdose awareness day heart

From top right and around: Chaney Corley, died by suicide from overdose; Joshua Hasnas, overdose (possible suicide), Billy Derr, overdose; John Henry Watkins, overdose; Marshall Colglazier, overdose; Dawson Pettit, overdose; Josh Kaski, overdose. Center: My first cousin’s second-born, Reece Haigh, overdose.

This is what drug overdose looks like. And it’s often not what people expect. Drug addiction cuts across all racial lines and socioeconomic groups as does mental illness. I know all these parents. There are countless others I don’t know but my heart goes out to all of you.

Today’s #griefheart is in memory and …

Yogi heart – #griefheart number 131

I went to yoga Saturday with some friends. My friend Sophia was teaching. After, we took a picture with everyone making hearts with their arms in honor of Charles. I think the light glowing through the windows is a nice touch that we didn’t plan.

What is the #griefheart project?

I explain my #griefheart project here.

See all #griefhearts so far on pinterest or on this blog by #griefheart category.

Get updates to this project by subscribing

From where I do I draw my strength?


Cloudy heart – #griefheart number 128

The sky symbolizes heaven and I can’t help but stare at it a lot since Charles died. I have always been fascinated with clouds and the fluffy white ones are always so peaceful next to a Carolina blue sky. I have spotted a heart but didn’t get my camera unlocked fast enough and it was gone. But Esther, my household help for the last 20 years, captured this one and sent it.

I do have more than one cloud heart but when you have a child that died, you kind of want to “collect” all the cloud hearts you can … Read more...

Bruised heart – #griefheart number 128

When you lose a child, the bruise on your heart doesn’t fade like the ones on your skin. The pain of a bruised heart from the loss of a child is like no other hurt.

Some days you really think you can’t get through all the hurt. You weren’t supposed to outlive your child. But we find a way to go on. We lift one another up. We start a new chapter. And like a bruise, the process is not always pretty but we manage to get there like countless other mothers and fathers have before us.

What is the


Rock solid heart – #griefheart 126

I’ll be holding you in my heart until I can hold you in my arms again.

This sent to me by my friend Melissa. Someone close to her sent it when she was having a difficult time. And she sent it to me for the same reason. Every day is a tough day still since Charles’ suicide. Thank you guys for reaching out. And those other moms out there in the same club, this is for you, too.

What is the #griefheart project?

I explain my #griefheart project here.

See all #griefhearts so far on pinterest or on this … Read more...