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Am Fam Physician. 2020;101(1):7

Original Article: Helping Patients Cope with Grief [Curbside Consultation]

Issue Date: July 1, 2019

See additional reader comments at:

To the Editor: Dr. Dudley’s Curbside Consultation about helping patients cope with grief made helpful suggestions. I have found, especially when managing patients at the outset of the grieving process, that they commonly have difficulty with the direct circumstances surrounding the loss of their loved one. They may have guilt about not doing enough or not being there at the moment of death. They may feel angry because they believe that the medical professionals failed to care for their loved one properly or that they did not get to say a proper goodbye.

Addressing the particulars around the death of the loved one allows my patients to begin to grieve for the loss, rather than focus on how the loved one died.

In Reply: I appreciate Dr. Rosen’s kind words. Grief is indeed a complicated process that all of us must go through, often more than once. Emotions run the gamut from guilt to anger and sadness. Although these can be expected, occasionally puzzling emotions present themselves, such as relief and increased libido. Patients can sometimes be troubled by their own emotions. No one experiences grief in the same way, and I find that it is helpful to validate what patients are experiencing as a normal stepping stone to healing.

My Curbside Consultation just touched the surface of the many facets of grief. It is my hope that it will open the conversation to more dialogue on this topic from seasoned physicians such as Dr. Rosen.

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This series is coordinated by Kenny Lin, MD, MPH, deputy editor.

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