Do I Stay In Contact After the Death?

Dear Barbara, Working in hospice, I always had a terrible time with --  do I stay in contact with the family after the death?

I think staying in contact with a family after the death is a personal practice and option. Most of the time there is another patient and family admitted to our full schedule and we get caught up in "there aren't enough hours in the day" living. 

I do think it is healthy for us to attend the visitation of our patient. It brings us closure and is appreciated by the family. The visit is our way of paying respect to the patient and family. It is also our final goodbye.

I personally discovered years ago that I needed some sort of closure ritual for myself when a patient I worked with died. For me, attending the visitation gave me contact with the family and offered me that final goodbye—that was my closure ritual.

As a hospice team most of us sign a sympathy card that is sent to the grieving family. For the primary care nurse or social worker or any staff member that has had direct contact on numerous occasions with the patient and/or family, I recommend sending a personal card or note to the family in addition to the team card. We in health care enter a family's life at a challenging, sad and fearful time. It is our acts of thoughtfulness that will be remembered and provide comfort.

All that said, I want to give you something to think about: We do not get emotionally involved with most of the patients and families we provide care for. We do not develop relationships that we want to continue after our work is done. Every so often a person and family will enter our personal space, fill some void we have within ourselves. For that person we will grieve. For that person we may want further contact.  

If all the patients and families got that deep inside our hearts we would not be able to continue our work. Our heart, our mind, and our life would carry too much grief. We would not be able to be objective. It would not be healthy for us to stay in end of life work.

Something More about...  Do I Stay In Contact After the Death?

Agencies (and end of life doulas) use my booklet, My Friend, I Care; The Grief Experience as their sympathy "card". The team signs the front page of the booklet and provides the family with a support tool and comfort for the bereaved.

Here is another article that give suggestions on further support for families- The Reluctance to Attend Bereavement Support Groups.

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I love your site. When I sign the card from the team (I’m a hospice chaplain), I try to write something personal on it. Something I appreciated about the patient/family, a particular memory, etc. I just don’t think I would find it moving, personally, to receive a card with “thoughts and prayers” written 20 times on it.
BK Books replied:
Mallory, you are so right. Personalized notes have meaning, have feeling for the receiver. Why bother sending an impersonal note? Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you in the work you are doing. Barbara

Maureen Kures

When my patients died I always tried to attend the funeral or memorial service if I could. It was my way of saying the person I cared for mattered to me. A card was always sent. Families were so appreciative to see me there. We had experienced a sacred time of life together.
There were a few families who crept into my heart and we stayed in touch. 30 + years later I am still in touch with their children. This was pre-HIPAA. Today is a much different time.
BK Books replied:
Oh Maureen you and I think alike. Added to your reasons for attending a service I’ll add for me it was also my closure ritual. Thank you for sharing. Blessings to you. Barbara

Krista Gassib

Thanks for always providing valuable information about end of life care Barbara. I have even read some of your pamphlets to my current patient and she was very appreciative.

After a patient dies I like sending a personal card too sometimes relaying some sweet details about time spent with the loved one who died. I use this as part of my closure.
BK Books replied:
Hi Krista, I like that you add a personal comment about the person that died to your sympathy note. Blessings to you in the work you are doing. Barbara.


We heard nothing from the horrible hospice we had.
I requested a call from the social worker or chaplain. No response. I called twice. I called again and requested that the team have the courtesy for the chaplain or social worker to call my father. He got brief call from social worker.

I am an LCSW myself. I was appalled. Horrible hospice experience in general. Wish we’d never had them.
BK Books replied:
I’m so sorry to hear about the hospice care you didn’t receive. Shame on them! Blessings! Barbara

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