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Universal Language of Grief

I came to nursing later in life, graduating from nursing school at 44, and did my initial med-surg nursing at a small rural hospital in central California.

I fell in love with home health nursing while in nursing school after going with an RN for 2 days on her home visits as part of my clinicals. I have remained in home health after completing my med/surg training to the present day.

I have been in many homes both rich and very poor within the county I live in so I have many memories that will stay with me until I die.

Because I live and work in a very small, rural area, home health nurses can be involved in end of life and some hospice as well. Some of my most memorable moments have had to do with death and dying.

While in an agricultural camp where most of the residents speak Spanish, I was privileged to be at the bedside of a patient who died while I was in her home.

The environment was simple and clean, and I felt transported to another place and time. Using my computer to document, I'd entered a home steeped in centuries of culture I knew very little about.

Though the verbal communication was difficult, as my Spanish is very broken, my compassion and caring was accepted without any words exchanged.

I marveled as I watched the patient's daughter come into the bedroom to see her mother dead in her bed. She began a sort of wailing, sing-song type of grieving I could only determine must have been part of their culture.

The patient's sons arrived, two young, strong men who worked in the agricultural fields. When they saw their mother dead, they fell on the floor and cried unashamedly.

Again, though language was a barrier, caring and compassion transcended the gap.  As the family grieved their loved one's death, I quietly made the appropriate calls to get things underway for the family so they could continue with their grieving.

Sometimes just being a presence without saying a word can comfort more than any words can possibly say. It was an experience I will never forget.

Mona Johansen is a home health nurse from Lockwood, CA.

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