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Hi, I’m Lisa. I’ve been fortunate that most of my experience with death has occurred within my
professional life. Working as a social worker within hospice and emergency medicine, I have
witnessed hundreds of deaths over the course of my career. Some people I knew very well after
meeting with them in their home setting for months, others I didn’t know at all as they died
suddenly in the ER. Working so closely with death has made me very aware of my mortality as
well as understanding how unprepared most of us are for our own death and the death of our
Very recently, around Christmas, my grandma died. She was the first family member of mine
that I was able to be there with her during her final days at home on hospice. I was grateful for
my prior experiences of witnessing the dying process as I was able to support my mom,
grandpa, and other family members who were afraid.
But it felt very different being there with my grandma rather than a patient. We had a hard time
managing her pain. She was moaning and grimacing so much. My grandpa really struggled with
watching her in pain. Eventually we got her more comfortable but then she started having a
death rattle, a noise that is caused by excessive secretions. I’ve heard this noise so many times
and reassured families that their loved one was not experiencing distress with this noise. But,
wow, it was hard to ignore coming from my grandma.
I was laying down next to her as she took her last breaths. My mom, cousin and I washed my
grandma’s body and dressed her in her favorite denim outfit. I was very proud of my family for
giving her a beautiful send off.
Though I know I’m lucky to have had living grandparents well into my 40’s, this recent loss has
made my time working in hospice harder right now. I am reminded of my grandma whenever I
have a patient with Pancreatic Cancer or a patient that is feisty and says surprising comments
like my grandma always made. It is difficult to support others when you are experiencing your
own grief, but I am fortunate to have great support from family and friends, especially my
business partner and friend, Lori, who is no stranger to grief and loss.