Hearing that a loved one has passed is big, life-changing news and you can never predict how someone will react.
Read on to check out 15 people who definitely were not prepared.
#15. The ability to empathize.
“I work in ICU so I often have to tell families bad news. The most recent memory was a daughter telling me “this must be the hardest part of your job”. I was taken back just because despite the tragedy she was enduring, she still had the ability to empathize with what I also had to do.”
#14. Like a zombie.
“I was a med student in a case where an 11 year old child suddenly died during a routine orthopedic procedure for a broken arm. There were about 20 family members there with balloons and stuff. When the surgeon told them the news, they all started screaming and scattered, running in different directions around the hospital. One of them started clawing at me like a zombie. Definitely one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed.”
#13. Trying to hold it all in.
“I was at a delivery where both mom and baby were having problems. As we were saving baby the OR team was trying to save mom. We did, they didnt. As we were leaving with baby to the NICU the OR doc was telling dad and his family that his wife didnt make it. He saw his baby and asked when mom could begin breast feeding. Grandma fell to the floor crying but dad just had this look like he was just waking up and not hearing what was going on. Seeing him visit the NICU was just so sad, you could see him trying to hold it all in while visiting his baby.”
#12. Quiet shock.
“In inner city Detroit in the 80s, where I trained as surgeon, mostly knife & gun trauma, it was common for reactions to be violent. The organ procurement nurse was beaten up when he spoke with a family member about organ donation. Another time a family member punched & kicked dozens of holes in the walls up & down a corridor. Two brothers on hearing about the death of their third brother were vowing revenge. I got them to promise not to do it on a night I was on trauma call.
The worst were the parents of a young man killed while committing rape. Not only did they have to deal with the loss of their son, but the circumstances of his death were terrible. Quiet shock.”
#11. She was happy.
“Best was talking with the family matriarch.
Strong business woman whose children had taken over several businesses in the town. Very rich influential family.
We originally admitted her as a stroke but on further review found multiple brain metastasis. Family wanted everything done. This was a mentally alert woman who at 94 they wanted to have chemo and surgery.
I discussed her options with her including no aggressive treatment. She elected for this. She went into hospice and died peacefully a few months later.
She asked what I would do. Having just gone through this with my grandmother and grandfather the year before I gave her both sides of the story. Doing everything and buying a few months but dealing with surgery and illness. Or just pursuing comfort measures.
I think she was happy with the decision.
I think the family was upset with me for giving her that option.”
#10. Slowly it sank in.
“I was working the burn unit. Guy comes in, MVC head on collision the other driver was drunk and crossed lanes. His wife was killed in the crash. Every time he woke up he asked where his wife was, and he had to be told. He would just start saying “42 years” and sobbing. I can’t imagine what it was like for that guy, having to remember every single time you wake up. He was in a lot of pain, AKA lots of dilaudid, which contributed to his confusion. Slowly over time it sank in. Very heartbreaking to watch.”
#9. I couldn’t help but grin.
“Deputy here. I’ve been to a quite a few deaths and I’ve only seen one that was “happy”. The husband was a lifetime alcoholic and was on hospice for various related illnesses. When we arrived he was DOA. She told us he went to go to the bathroom gasped and literally dropped dead.
She was at first sad. The more she talked about him we could tell he was a real bastard. She pretty much couldn’t make a move with out him. He wouldn’t let the grand kids come over and they lived next door. When the funeral home came to collect the body they had difficulty getting him loaded up. The wife remarked “Even dead he still finds a way to be a pain,” I couldn’t help but grin when see said it.”
#8. He self-discharged.
“Work in orthopaedics. Had a car crash involving 7 family members. Youngest was a 9 year old with open fractures to both legs. Rushed straight into theatre, but the child had developed rapid onset sepsis, mixed with some blood lost and a ?PE. Died on the table before surgery could begin properly. Despite a large number of staff as you can imagine, we couldn’t do any more. The father was the last to find out, as suffered a fractured skull and was moved to a different trauma hospital (crash occured halfway between the two hospitals, patients were split up due to rush/need at the time). He had a ?bleed on the brain and was in ICU for a week. Wife didn’t tell him until he left ICU out of fear it would set him off/hinder recovery.
I heard when he found out, he self discharged and attempted suicide. I hope he is alright now and getting help, but unfortunately being in a different area it’s hard to find out. I believe it was actually his wife that was driving.
Finally as a side note, please ensure that your headrest in a car is adjusted correctly. I see a lot of head, skull and neck injuries frequently because of this. Only today I was seeing a fractured C5 because of this. It’s something your only have to do once if your driving the same car all the time, but in combination with a seatbelt it really is there for a reason, not just for comfort.”
#7. I think about her and that night
“EMT here. Had a few of these, but the worst was one I observed indirectly. We had a young woman in her twenties killed instantly in a high-speed collision. Same old story, car vs. tree, the tree won. Girl was alone in the car, cold November night, sad way to die. The crash was so bad that we thought we should have the car towed back to the firehouse so the FD could do the extrication behind closed doors – we figured she’d just come apart when the car was pulled away from her. But she stayed together, mostly, and they loaded her into our ambulance to go to the hospital to pronounce her – we were only basic EMTs and pronouncement wasn’t in our protocols.
We get to the ER and park up front, outside of the bays usually reserved for ambulances to back up into – no need to take up space with an already obviously dead patient. One of the ER docs came out to the ambulance and pronounced her there and told us to sit tight, the family was coming. Apparently all they’d been told was that their daughter had been in an accident, and that they needed to get to the hospital right away. So we sat in the ambulance with a dead girl under a sheet. She was only a few years older than me, and I knew her vaguely from around town. It was weird.
A pickup truck comes screaming into the ER parking lot a few minutes later, and a man and a woman about my parents’ age come tumbling out before it even stops and go running into the ER. The parents. A few minutes later the lights in the family waiting room, which is right across the sidewalk from our ambulance, come on, and a nurse brings the parents in. We can’t hear anything, but we can see the exchange – have a seat please, the doctor will be right with you. She leaves and closes the door, and we see the parents alone, terrified at what’s to come. The mother is wringing her hands and pacing, the father is standing stiff and stoic. This is going to be bad.
We can see the doc who pronounced her coming down the hall, with a nurse and a social worker in tow. He gets to the door, hesitates a second, straightens his tie, and turns to the women with him. We can’t hear him, of course, but we knew he said, “Ready?”
He opens the door and the parents whip around. We see him introduce himself, and give the short speech. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but your daughter died at the scene of the accident…” The mother melted. I’ve never seen a human just dissolve like that, like her bones had suddenly turned to jelly. The father caught her before she hit the floor, and he looked like he’d been hit with a sack of cement in the gut. He doubled over but held onto her, got her to the couch, and we just sat there watching this horrible silent movie playing out in front of us.
It felt shitty to intrude on their private moment, and we talked about it in the cab of the ambulance. In a way, we felt like part of that family, at least for the short time that we took care of their daughter. We treated her body with as much respect as we could, we carefully transported her to the hospital so there would be no further damage, and we kept her safe while they were en route, and we made sure she was never alone.
That was nearly 40 years ago, and that girl has been dead twice as long as she was alive. I think about her and that night every once in a while, and now that I’m a father of kids about that age, it’s too painful to bear. That was only one of hundreds of accidents I responded too over my EMS and firefighting career, and it wasn’t even the worst one. But it was the one that had the most impact on me, and I often wonder how that poor family coped with it.”
#6. A rare condition.
“It was the 40-something year old mother of 2 who had been admitted for nausea and vomiting and died of multisystem organ failure (heart attacks, strokes, ischemic colitis, pulmonary embolism, etc) because of a rare clotting disorder than decided to manifest itself all at once for the first time in her. Telling a family that someone that young and previously healthy that not only is the mother going to die, but that they should have their doctor look at screening them for a rare condition is no fun.”
“When I worked in a large inner city ER this family had brought in their grandmother who had went to take a nap in the family living room on her family chair. Well when she didn’t wake up for 8-10 hours, the family activated EMS and brought her to me. She had been dead for half the day at this point which was very obvious so we called it, the lady was stiff at this point. When I called the family into the room (all 20 of them) to tell them their 88yo without a decent organ in her body on dialysis had indeed died they accused me first of lying then second of murdering her. Police had to be called as a particularly boisterous 14yo female was being very threatening and repeating what a lot of families say “she was fine this morning, people don’t JUST DIE.’ Unfortunately that is how everyone dies.”
#4. Instead of the reality.
“Thankfully I wasn’t the only one in the room, but we spent 3 hours on and off explaining to a family that we couldn’t transfer their deceased child to another hospital. I think they believed the kid was in a vegetative state, and that we just gave up on them, instead of the reality that their kid was dead.”
#3. A good few hours.
“Previous Nursing assistant on a respiratory ward. Elderly male patient decided to willingly opt out of respiratory support machine. Lovely man, his time inevitably came around 6 hours later, early in the morning. His granddaughter (young girl around mid-20s) the only family member in the hospital at the time was so devastated she climbed into the bed with him and wouldn’t leave the ward. Endless crying, shrieking and asking for her Grandad to wake up.. heart breaking stuff. Staff and doctors tried to coerce her to take some time outside but she wouldn’t leave the bed. Eventually the rest of the family arrived and talked her out but took a good few hours.”
#2. Him leaving her notes.
“Worked on a medical-surgical for a few years at the beginning of my career as a nurse. Sure, we had a few patients here and there that were just there for observation.
My first cancer patient I lost in my career seemed like one of those. When he was admitted to our floor, he was always cheerful, polite, and never admitted feeling ill in any way. One of the nicest people you could want to meet. I remember him because of this. Dude had stage 4b lung cancer, and never once asked for ANYTHING.
Over the course of a few months, I got to know him better. As it turns out, he thought he had a bad cold and found out he was dying shortly. It’s shitty, but that’s life sometimes I suppose. It ain’t always pretty. When he found out, he seemed at peace with it all. Then he began working like a madman from his bed.
Every time I went in to his room to check on him or give him meds, he was writing in a notebook. Only once did he receive visits whole he was with us, and it was his wife, who was brought by a friend. She’d never learned to drive because she never wanted or needed to. Dude spent his entire life taking care of her, completely and totally. As it turns out, all the writing in notebooks was him leaving her notes of how to do things. He’d literally taken care of her since they were in high school. She didn’t even know how to use a dish washer. Nothing.
I think of him from time to time, when I’ve had a rough go with love in my life. The times I asked this man about his wife were some of the few times I saw his face light up with delight. It’s nice to think that love like that exists.”
#1. His desperate pleas.
“This was three years ago, when I’d recently started training in the hospital, and I was placed in a consultation room for a week. The doctor had told me the next patient had received many treatments for her bowel cancer but the cancer was coming back too fast. There was nothing the hospital could offer her anymore, so that day we were to tell her how she only had an estimated three montha left to live.
They walked in the room and she looked as if she already understood what we were about to say, but the husband was distraught. He was in tears, and I had to do my best to offer advice and comfort as the doctor had already gone back to his paperwork. It was one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve had in the hospital to date, hearing his desperate pleas of whether there was anything we could do to help. His wife did her best to console him too, but I could see she needed the support too.
I’m really sorry I couldn’t do anything to help, old friend. I hope your wife rests peacefully.”