I'm so sorry in advance if this isn't the right place for this. I'm a volunteer in the PICU – I've been volunteering for two years but I'm not a medical professional by any stretch of the imagination. I know that patients die on the unit. It's always super low key, and usually I don't know until after the fact. Before today, I had never seen a dead body.
Today, a patient died about twenty minutes into my volunteer shift. Their nurse was talking about how matted their hair was, as it had been a few months since it had been properly combed. I cautiously asked if I could help (not really thinking that the nurse would say yes) and the nurse said that would be very appreciated. So I helped to comb the knots out of this dead patient's hair for about an hour and a half. The patient was young. I have a young child of my own. I was fine in the room but ever since I got home I've been having a lot of difficulty processing what happened today.
I'm just a volunteer; I have no real training on how to handle this. What are some ways to process this patient's death, and my own reaction to it? I've been volunteering for two years and this has never happened before, so I don't expect to get a lot of exposure to dead kids in the future, but I would sincerely appreciate any advice on how to deal with and compartmentalize this event.
Thank you very much – I think everyone who works in medicine is amazing. The nurse was so respectful and compassionate to this patient, and it makes me very grateful that there are people out there who care that much.
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