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  • Writer's picture Gabrielle Elise Jimenez

Your feelings are valid.

Updated: Apr 17

I sat at the bedside of a patient who took her last breath today… I did not rush anything, and I didn’t feel the need to say anything to her, I just wanted to be present for this sacred moment and honor the silence. I sat there because I promised her family that I would wait until they arrived. At first, I started to do my charting and immediately felt like that was thoughtless and insensitive, so I put everything aside and practiced being fully present, which she deserved.


Her family arrived, tearful before even entering her room, and immediately rushed to her bedside hugging and kissing her goodbye. I stepped away to offer them privacy. When I went back into the room, the family expressed guilt and sadness for not being there when she took her last breath. I said what I always say… “some people do not want an audience, some don’t want this to be the last thing you see, and I truly believe that they don’t take with them who was there at the last breath, but who was there all along.” I believe this, and I say it often hoping it brings peace and comfort to those who struggle for not being there at that moment. But today was different. I felt like maybe she did want them to be there. How would I know? I was reminded that I do not know everything, despite how much I do know, and I will never know the person in the bed as much as those who are saying goodbye.


I turned around and went back into the room and offered to sit with them, offering an ear, so they can share how they were feeling about not being there. I listened, not interrupting, not giving sage hospice nurse advice, and not telling them how to feel. I let them know their feelings were valid. I gave them permission to feel guilty, but to also make peace with it, reminding them of the beautiful care and support they provided her on her journey, letting them know that I felt confident she knew how loved she was, which is what we hope everyone takes with them when they die.


The last thing I said to them, was “say her name often, and tell her story. If you don’t tell her story, her story won’t be told, and that is the best way to honor her.” And I left the room.


I have witnessed almost two thousand last breaths, and I have seen so much, and learned so much, but today I was reminded of two very important things; I do not know it all, and I will never feel what someone else is feeling, the way they are feeling it, so it is very important that I do not dismiss their feelings, and that I always offer them a safe place to be open, honest, and vulnerable.



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