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Dealing with loss as a health care professional

Everyone experiences the loss of a loved one at some point in life, but many health care professionals deal with death every day. Nurses, as well as members of a medical office staff, often become shoulders to cry on and emotional sounding boards for their patients’ families, which can make it difficult for them to deal with their own grief in a healthy way.

Author, nursing consultant, and caring science expert A. Lynne Wagner, EdD, MSN, RN, uses nature as an example to teach others about the “seasons” or stages of grief and to provide a healthier healing environment during the process of loss. In Wagner’s book, “Four Seasons of Grieving: A Nurse’s Healing Journey with Nature,” published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI), she focuses on the universal human experience of grieving through her own unique story of loss.

“In coping with the loss of my mother, through a reflective and aesthetic process of journaling, poetry writing, and connecting with a tree through its seasons, I realized I was healing in ways I never experienced before in my many losses through life,” Wagner says. “My grief was slowly soothed through my connection with nature. Loss became a reality—a change I learned to live with.”

Based on a caring philosophy, “Four Seasons of Grieving” is framed by the lessons Wagner learned from nature’s transformational seasons, specifically through reflective conversations the author had with herself and a tree.

“The process of consciously attending to my grief through self-care and self-reflection on the seasons of nature and human healing allowed new perspective and growth,” Wagner said. “As a nurse, I wanted to share my revelation of healing ways.”

Wagner urges all health care professionals and anyone experiencing a major loss to deal with grief in a more holistic way, to be better equipped to help others in their grieving process while also increasing the quality of compassionate patient care.

“Being reflective about your loss and grieving and attending to your self-care and self-compassion are the most important parts of healing,” Wagner says.

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