My Dad died from Covid. How do I return to Nursing?

My Dad died from Covid 4 weeks ago. He was in a Care Home. I am an RN and was able to be with him constantly in his last week of life and when he died. I wore full ppe. I am broken by his death. My GP thinks I should return to work. My Dad was buried a week ago. How do I return to nursing patients in an Emergency Unit with dementia and Covid? How do I separate my grief and loss of my Dad whilst caring for patients just like him? Work are supportive but my GP is not. I have been an RN for 28 years. How do I recover from his death and continue to nurse without having a breakdown?

Hi, RCB
I am so sorry that your dad died, I do believe that your GP is being unreasonable in expecting you to return to work so soon after you have been bereaved. I am sure that you know by the type of work which you do, that it isn’t feasible, besides your work carries a great amount of concentration. I am not suggesting that you wouldn’t be capable, but the nature of this horrendous virus appears to be very unpredictable.
Take good care of yourself and stay safe,
MaryL

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Hello, welcome to the site and I know you will have support from other users. Please think what’s best for you and your mental and physical well being because whilst you are grieving you are more likely to find that your immune system is compromised. It is only a week since the funeral which is major step, so far to early to think of anything about going back to normal working life. Grief is a strange thing, it affects people in many different ways and no one can say how it will affect you, sorry not even a GP. If work is sympathetic then use them to stay away longer, it’s to dangerous for you to return. Your working environment is very stressful and not a good place for you until you are fit and well. You must take extra care and remember to be kind to yourself. Blessings to you. S

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Hi there. Firstly I’m so sorry to read about your dad and especially under these circumstances. There are literally no words that can describe the emotions you feel when loosing a parent. I lost my dad in January to a sudden heart attack. I took 3 months off work, luckily my work were quite understanding and gave me 4 weeks compassionate leave and then I went to my GP who signed me off for 2 weeks at a time. Luckily all I had to do was ring up and ask the receptionist to keep extending it which they were happy to do. At first I felt I was putting pressure on myself about returning to work but then I reminded myself that this has never happened and will never happen again so not to rush things and only go back when I feel completely ready. I have a friend who lost her mum a few years ago and told me not to rush back as it’s what she did and ended up taking more time off due to the effects it had. If I was you I would try and ask to speak to another GP who will hopefully be slightly more understanding. some people are different and feel work is a needed distraction, you do what’s right for you. For me, I just couldn’t face people, let alone to try and function to do my job, and I only work in insurance so I can’t imagine the challenges you may have to face in your role. I eventually went back in April as I felt I got to a point where I needed a break from my own head and it definitely helped feeling distracted for a short while. I then got furloughed and I’m due back in the next couple of weeks. Bit of a rollercoaster to be honest but I’m in an ok headspace and feel ok about it. I hope you manage to do what’s right for you and look after yourself x

Hi RCB
I lost my husband 2 months ago just before lock down I am also a registered nurse I have not been back to work yet it’s very early days and you have seen first hand covid 19 don’t go back you need to grieve far to soon x

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Hi RCB
Sorry to hear about the loss of your dad. Just to echo the others really. My mum died very suddenly in june and I was signed off work for 12 weeks. When I returned I increased my hours very slowly and wasnt full time for 6 months. Without this baby steps I wouldn’t be functioning as well as I am today.
I still cry every day but when I’m at work I’m able to give it my all.
Cheryl x

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Hi RCB, I am so sorry to hear you have lost your father in such harrowing circumstances. You describe yourself as broken and that is exactly what you are. It isn’t just our hearts that break but our minds and bodies too. That’s how it feels if not always outwardly obvious.
The fact that your GP feels you should return to work after a month would suggest that he or she has never suffered a personal loss and is not qualified to advise you and quite frankly is a dereliction of duty. The theory of death is nothing like the reality.
Given that your job involves dealing with so much stress and requires strength and concentration it cannot be acceptable for you to return to this environment. It doesn’t require a medical degree to work that out but it does require empathy and compassion, something your GP doesn’t seem to have.
Before you can possibly care for others you have to care for yourself and that will take time as every one of us on this forum will know.
I don’t work but both my sons had two months off work when my husband died and both then had a phased return. My elder son who is a secondary school teacher was really poorly after my husband died suddenly and was terrified of returning to the classroom before he felt ready and was confident he wouldn’t break down in front of the class. Taking it slowly enabled him to at least return in a fit state. he saved breaking down for when he got home. My younger son who was with my husband when he died was understandably traumatized to a different level. Even now seven months on he struggles with attitudes at work. He’s currently working from home. Whilst it is a diversion it also highlights some aspects of human nature with which he now has no patience and emphasises the loneliness of his experience.
Anyone who suffers a devastating loss of someone close and much loved is never the same. We have to learn to live all over again.
Please change your GP and listen to your own instincts and to people who truly understand.
Take care

Thank you all for supporting RCB and welcome Louismarie, grieving doesn’t have any short time fix and to think of anyone going back into work to early is sad but into that kind of working environment is totally wrong. I hope you are all finding a way through this horrible time in your life and that tomorrow is the day you smile again. Take care of yourselves and please continue to support each other.S

Dear Kim & everyone here, thank you so much for your kind words and support. I was feeling so alone, like I should just get on with it - so it’s been lovely to feel accepted and supported. Occupational Health have been great, telling me to take as long as I need. They are inundated with Health Care Professionals, away from the workplace, due to Covid Bereavement. My GP was vile, saying that she couldnt sign everyone off for 3 months as there would be no one working in the NHS. I’ve been off for 5 weeks and one of those weeks was spent with my Dad - watching him conscious, struggling, coughing and drowning and completely unable to help him apart from try to comfort him. I have seen many terrible and tragic deaths as a Nurse but watching my lovely Dad die like this has shaken me. I am not the same person. I was working with Covid patients before he became ill and I was happy to care for this vulnerable patient group but now I am afraid of this virus. I was fortunate that I was with my Dad, holding his hand and talking to him as he died. I can’t begin to imagine how families must feel who never saw their poorly loved ones again. I can’t imagine that pain and disbelief they must feel… In the past 3 years, I have been through multiple bereavements. My mother in law died from cancer and I was allowed one day off from the NHS - because as my Manager said “she was only a mother in law” but I knew her for over 25 years and she was a great support to me with my children - and my own mother who had severe mental ill health. 5 weeks after her death, my Mum declined and died unexpectedly. I was allowed 6 weeks away from work after her death and was then back on the Emergency Unit. I have also been the main Carer for my Dad, for over 6 years, with his dementia until his recent death - with my sister as an invisible Carer - offering no contact, help or support… and now I am bereaved and expected to get back to work caring for vulnerable people suffering and dying just like my Dad did. There can be very little support and care for some of us working in the NHS - especially from GPS like mine. Many Health Care Professionals are really struggling and our friends and colleagues are dying from Covid too. I am a good Nurse - experienced, professional - but I can’t ever envisage returning to work. When I try, I just see myself standing at a patient’s bedside and disappearing through the floor. I need time to grieve but this GP will not support me. I will find another one. I wish everyone peace and comfort. It’s really painful. I am very grateful for all your messages. Rachel x

I thought about going back in a few weeks but like you I’m actually scared I will pick up the virus I will wait hopefully until we are back to some sort of normality we have to think of ourselves for once in our situations x take care

Maybe she has never suffered a bereavement, find yourself another GP. Your priority is your state of health.
Good luck and please stay safe.
Mary x

Oh, Kim, I know x I was ill with Covid symptoms approx 5 weeks before my Dad became ill but 111 declined to swab me so I don’t know if I was infected. I do know that now I am very afraid of the virus but also afraid of the pressure and emotional stress that Nursing Teams face. Maybe we both need to avoid triggers and look after ourselves - as the lovely people here write to us in their messages? My friend, an RN also, her Husband died and she took a long time off but it was right and the best thing for her to do. My experience of being bereaved and returning to work - is that once you’re back, you’re back and it’s just get on with it. Colleagues, however kind they are, forget that you are bereaved because everyone’s under pressure. My friend, an Occupational Therapist, is working through a double Bereavement and struggling under huge pressure and short staffing at work. We give a lot to the NHS, it’s time to take some time and look after ourselves. If my GP won’t sign me off then I’ll have to ask for unpaid leave or resign…and we are so short of Nurses in this country. When I look back over my career and the unpaid hours I’ve worked, working every Christmas Day, working 8 nights in a row, working a 11 hr shift with a 30 minute break, subjected to abuse and threats, bullying by management - then I think, if I need to miss 8 more shifts to keep myself together - then so be it. Chin up, Kim, and everyone. Thank goodness, lovely people here care and understand x

Thank you, Mary x Take Care x

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Dear Jobar, I am sorry to hear about your Husband. Thank you for your kind words to me whilst being in your own grief. This space has really helped me and hearing from everybody. Makes me feel less alone. Rachel x

You don’t need work at this time stay safe xx

Thank you Susie123 x

Kim5 - you are right, thank you, take care. Rachel x

Please remember we are always here for you. Today an tomorrow, in fact ever day. Take care of yourself. S

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Thank you x