Grieving for a stranger


The experience of one NHS healthcare professional through the pandemic. This blog is dedicated to all of the NHS staff who have lost their lives protecting us during this pandemic.

Read Time: 4 Mins

Grieving for those we know is a difficult experience but to grieve for a stranger can be unexpectedly distressing. To empathies with someone else’s suffering and to grieve for them once they have passed away is a process many healthcare professionals experience, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the ongoing pandemic and the second lockdown there has been a sense of community in supporting our health services and those who are grieving. With approximately 1.1 million NHS staff working during the pandemic, this has meant that the impact of death has been felt on a larger scale. Whilst speaking to an NHS staff member, we were able to understand the strains of the workplace and the need for more mental health support to cater for NHS staff especially during this time.

One staff member further explained the experience of grieving for their current patients and how difficult this process has been.

Although, most hospitals have allowed visitors, it can be difficult for some relatives to visit their loved ones and this resulted in staff members assisting the families with regular contact and sitting with patients during their final moments. This staff member recalls that they remembered every patient that has passed in their care and although they are with the patients, they understand that it is not the same as being with your family.

‘I’ve always remembered every single one of my patients who have ever died on me. It is something that you never forget.’

When asked about the impact of the increased hospital deaths and how they cope with this NHS staff member expressed that ‘you don’t really get over it if I’m honest you just kind of have 5 minutes to pick yourself up and have to carry on working.’ Mounting workplace pressure has resulted in little attention being brought to mental health and the grieving process.

Long working hours has also meant that staff are unable to recuperate during their free time  to process the strain of the pandemic on their mental and emotional health because their job must be done. Some are able to confide in other staff members who are experiencing similar emotions but feel that speaking with family and friends is difficult especially during the height of the pandemic as their experiences can be so different. NHS staff find comfort in speaking to others in their workplace, as they can share experiences and relate to each other on a greater level. Also spending any free time they get going on walks and being in open spaces has helped many reflect and understand the grieving process better.

How roles in the workplace have changed

The workplace remains the same for many as the strength they have gained from working together as a unit has allowed many to keep persevering even through the multiple deaths they face on a daily basis. The sense of preparedness is also evident, as the second lockdown has had similar pressures with staff feeling more prepared. Not only understanding the pandemic but also in supporting other staff members and maintaining good mental health.

‘it has shown us that no matter what is thrown at us in the world the NHS will still be there and fighting and the staff will still be there fighting for everybody.’

The process of patients passing away has changed especially with the lack of hospital visits and assisting many through this process. However, the care provided for those who eventually die has not changed.

‘As healthcare care professionals we just try and do what we can for them regardless of COVID-19. I think the way we treat people would always be the same whether they’ve got something that’s infectious or not. Because that’s what we’re there to do.’

The Next steps…

The importance of good mental health has been experienced by this healthcare professional as it has been just as important as physical health and rest is in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The best advice they can provide for others working similar situations is to monitor their mental health and ask for support when they require it rather than being pressured to keep moving forward regardless of the stresses they face. They feel this sense of community and support is an integral part of their role.


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