Navigating the Loss and Grief of a Nurse Suicide

Matthew S. Howard, DNP, RN, CEN, TCRN, CPEN, CPN; Michelle Buck, MSN, APRN; Holly Carpenter, BSN, RN; Kendra McMillan, MPH, RN


Am Nurs Journal. 2021;16(3) 

In This Article

Initial Shock

Many nurses have difficulty allowing themselves to grieve the loss of their friend and colleague and continue to work in high-pressure work settings. However, no one can be expected to proceed with a shift at their highest level while trying to process the loss of a coworker, and suicide may make this even more difficult.

Individuals who experience a sudden loss may feel numbness, shock, and denial. Grief may manifest itself in feelings of despair, anguish, loss, anger, guilt, regret, and anxiety. Although these feelings are among the common reactions to the loss of a coworker, each nurse will have a unique grief journey. A study by Cerel and colleagues estimated that every suicide resulted in 135 people being exposed to the loss. Based on these findings, those experiencing grief may include many people who didn't work directly with the nurse but are affected by the loss and may need support.