The Scar In Your Heart: Grief In End of Life Care

Dear Barbara, I respect your opinion and input and wonder if you can shed some light. I am a certified HPCRN. The JOY of hospice was mine for years.  I could easily see the beauty in almost any end-of-life situation. Then, my dad died on our service in 2015. I continued to work for hospice for the next three years but after my dad died I couldn’t see ANY beauty in end of life. I completely walked away in 2018. I don’t know how to “get it back.” You probably cannot answer this, but I’m curious about your thoughts.

Being on the other side of hospice (being a family member of a loved one dying) puts an entirely different perspective on end of life and our professional role. 

When my mother was on hospice the first thing I said to the nurse as she entered my home where my mother was staying was, "I am Barbara, Dorothy's daughter, not Barbara, director of hospice." Also, before my mother and step father’s deaths (they died within five months of each other) I quit my job as director of a hospice. I figured I could always find another job when I had my active grief behind me. 

When one of our own is facing the end of their life dying becomes personal not professional. We pull from a different part of ourselves in our professional role. 

You asked why your relationship to your hospice work was affected following the death of your dad. I think because every time you entered a patient's home and life it touched the scar in your heart from your father's death. It rubbed your grief wound. 

I think we compartmentalize so many of our thoughts and feelings to keep them safe and protected. Grief has its own compartment. It is how we learn to function in daily life. 

We don't recover from grief. We learn how to live with it and compartmentalizing it is one of the ways we find to carry the pain. Every time you saw a patient or went to work the door to your grief compartment was opened.  

I think you made a wise decision to find a job elsewhere in healthcare. 

When I was a director of hospice I would not let an employee return to direct patient care for a year following the death of someone close to them. I found other areas of hospice for them to work in.

Something More...  about The Scar In Your Heart

Caring for people at end of life has its own unique challenges.  Hospice, Palliative Care and Home Health agencies need to deeply support their staff or they will suffer from compassion fatigue. I encourage the use of my dvd, Care For The Caregiver and accompanying booklet, You Need Care Too.

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I love this. I became a Hospice LPN after the loss of my Mother in 2019. That experience taught me the care and compassion patients need at end of life and I feel honored to bless families with their loved one’s care at that most difficult time. Thank You BK for the books and these posts as they inspire and teach me daily.


Hi Deborah, You are wise to take care of yourself during this challenging time. If I can be of any help or guidance use my personal email My blessings are with you and your husband. Barbara


Hi Kathy, I have a grief booklet called My Friend, I Care. Thank you for asking. Blessings! Barbara


This topic is so timely! My husband just began hospice care and I’ve put my longtime hospice and bereavement volunteer work on hold. It’s a comfort to know why that feels and is right—- that it’s not ‘being weak.’

Gail Weatherill

I always think of Janice Joplin belting out, “Take another little piece of my heart.” Yes, they leave many gifts behind, but every single one takes a little piece of my heart with them.

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