Without evidence of benefit, an intervention should not be presumed to be beneficial or safe.

- Rogue Medic

Dealing with Grief

In the comments to On the Clock: Dead, there are some great thoughts, but one is an idea that many people ignore. ERP, of ER Stories, points out:

I remember when I first was able to just put this sadness out of my mind and get back to work. I was an intern and have to say, it was pretty weird. Strange how you can just adapt to these feelings and push them aside in order to be functional.

A long time ago, in a life far, far away, I was experiencing a bit of grief. Not the first time. Won’t be the last time. I was just driving along, and not at all crying, because I am much too manly for that. Anyway, there I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden these two cars collide in front of me.
A K-car full of little old ladies, apparently driven by one with poor depth perception, turned in front of me. I, being an experienced driver, used the middle pedal to decelerate quickly and avoid pointing out this driving flaw. The driver of the minivan next to me was less tactful. Sumdood was not driving. The driver was a very distraught soccer mom.
One LOL received some serious head trauma. The others did not appear to have any serious injuries, but did have exacerbations of underlying medical conditions. Particularly the driver with chest pain. I was off duty, but did what I could to help. Eventually, about 40 minutes after the collision, the head injured passenger was transported by helicopter. We were only about 10 minutes from a trauma center, but the medic needed to follow all of the protocols that might be relevant. 
The patient also had her chest decompressed – after the medic spent over 5 minutes off scene on the phone with medical command for permission to perform something that I doubt she needed. Of course permission was granted. It is the stuff that might actually help the patient that is turned down. I wasn’t involved in her care at that point, since I don’t know what her vital signs were, but the EMT bagging her did not seem to be experiencing difficulty and the patient did seem to tolerate the delay. 10 minutes from the trauma center and extrication of less than 5 minutes, but a scene time of close to 40 minutes (the medic was not there at the time of the crash). EMS at its finest.
Well, after the medic transferred care of the head injured patient to the helicopter crew, he was getting ready to leave. I asked him what he intended to do about the driver with chest pain, the passenger feeling weak, and the other passenger with arm pain. He seemed to blame me for his lack of awareness of the other patients in the car, even though I had updated him on them earlier. He called for more ambulances and suggested that I not make his day any more pleasant.
I gave my information to the police, in case they needed anything for their report. I returned to my vehicle and considered the question that kept returning to Leonard in Memento

Now… where was I?

Well, as I mentioned, I was just driving along, and not at all crying, because I am much too manly for that. Anyway, there I was, minding my own business, . . . . Pleased to be moving to a different state. Maybe EMS is not the same everywhere.
It is pretty amazing how easily we can put aside grief in order to do what needs to be done. The grief isn’t gone. Grief doesn’t ever seem to completely go away, just to diminish with time. Maybe it is replaced with more painful grief. Maybe it is overshadowed by joy. Maybe it just begins to fade. It does not control our lives, even though it may seem to. It sure does interfere with our lives, but we do not give up control to the grief or we would not be able to function in times like this.


  1. I was recently listening to an interview with Martin Amis and he remarks at one point, “no none ever gets over anything…contrary to the conventional wisdom that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger–no it doesn’t, it makes you weaker and kills you later on…”I’ve thought a lot about that statement. And I don’t think he’s completely off the mark. Maladaptive coping does make you weaker and sometimes does kill you in the end. When we talk about ‘putting our grief aside’ I have to wonder what that really means. Is that when we shut off our empathy and get on with our jobs? Or is that when we don’t allow ourselves to feel for someone else and the pain they might be suffering, at all…? Because the latter has shades of ‘personality disorder’ written all over it. I’ve often taken my emotional pulse in a tragic situation and been shocked at how little the event seems to be bothering me…I’m more concerned that my lines are labeled for transfer than if the person is going to make it. YIKES!What kind of broken human beings walk around fixing all the other broken human beings???

  2. Ack! Another cheerful comment brought to you by the sleep deprived girl with a head cold. Where did I put that NyQuil…???

  3. I wanted to pick up one of his books and write a post with at least some frame of reference. The only one I could find was “Einstein’s Monsters.” I don’t know what his fiction is like, but the guy could use an occasional giggle.While his statement is not completely wrong, it is not completely right either. Our response to a stressor determines if it will strengthen or weaken. Even with continued strengthening, we need a break from the continued stresses or the eustress will become distress.Martin Amis may not get over anything, but that does not mean that others live so much in the past.I do not see putting grief aside as bad. It is necessary in this line of work. Wallowing in grief is not healthy.You ask – “What kind of broken human beings walk around fixing all the other broken human beings???”Well, what kind of human beings do not help other human beings?I would probably be much more broken in a non-helping line of work. Not that they would have me.Eventually I may finish this book, occasionally I am able to wade through molasses. Maybe I will read “Time’s Arrow,” since it is an interesting title. We have such a childish view of time, but I don’t know where his book goes with this. I will eventually write a post on this, since it is worth discussing at length (I don’t mean longer than usual posts).