A pathway to a healthier you

Grief and loss

I was a new graduate and hadn’t been exposed to death before. In my first three months on the job three people I knew and in my personal life died – all unexpected and traumatic deaths, a drowning, a cardiac arrest and in a car accident. On top of that my first patient died – a 19-year old diagnosed with an inoperable glioma. It was too much, death and dying consumed me. The loss was immeasurable
Natalie, RN

Grief is a natural response to loss and can occur whatever the type of loss – whether that be a loved one, your life before COVID, a job, an opportunity or abilities. The more significant the loss is to you, the more intense your grief is likely to be.  

Responding to patient death

The research shows that nurses, midwives and students experience grief as an emotional response to patient death. Further, nurses and midwives can become overburdened by recurrent patient deaths.  

Recognising the signs that you are grieving

Common grief reactions include sadness, crying, anger, shock, denial, fear, guilt and powerlessness. Experiencing grief and loss can be all-consuming and take a toll on your physical health and emotional and psychological wellbeing. 

Maintaining your normal life schedule while also grieving a loss can be overwhelming - whether at work or in your personal life. You may experience loss of energy, difficulty in concentration, distractedness, restlessness, anxiety, loss of appetite, exhaustion and social withdrawal.  

Grieving is different for each of us 

Communicating to others about what you are experiencing can help. Be honest with family and friends about how you are feeling and be open to accepting their help. 

While some people find being at work beneficial, others may need to take some additional time off to process what’s going on. The experience of grieving is different for everyone. 

Asking for support

It might be helpful to reach out for professional support as it’s important to develop strategies to positively cope with grief and loss. This might include practising self-compassion and some additions to your usual self-care. 

We’re here for you if you want to talk. Call us on xxx and speak with an experienced nurse or midwife about what you’re experiencing and to help you work out a plan towards healing/recovery.

When you’re not ok

Seek help. Speak to a nurse or midwife who understands. 

Grief: a response to a loss that can affect all parts of a person’s life

The death of a patient may be confronting or distressing, especially if you’ve had no prior exposure to death and dying - or haven’t reflected on your own mortality
Mark Aitken, Deputy Director Nurse Midwife HPA
Grief may be exacerbated when patient loss is unexpected or a nurse or midwife has become close to a patient


For most people, the experience of grief will dominate their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours for a number of weeks or months
Australian Psychology Society