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

Honoring Their Memory

The process of memorializing a colleague lost to suicide can be heart-breaking and challenging. The pandemic may make it even more difficult. However, honoring a nurse's memory is vital to coworkers' healing.

Nurse colleagues and employers might want to contact the nurse's loved ones to determine their wishes, but they should do so respectfully to protect their privacy and confidentiality. Appointing one work colleague to reach out will prevent overwhelming the family. If appropriate, coworkers can attend the funeral or a fellow nurse or manager can speak at the service. However, the nurse and family may have religious beliefs that don't allow coworkers to attend services, wakes, viewings, or other final gatherings, even when the pandemic is over. The family may reach decisions about including coworkers in services based on their own grief, having a large extended family and network of friends, a desire for an intimate farewell and privacy, or fear of disrespect or drama.

Nurses can still honor a colleague lost to suicide in many beautiful ways. For example, they can share a favorite memory or prayer in their honor at change of shift, include a short article in the organization's newsletter (while maintaining privacy and confidentiality), post photos in the break room, place a memento in a special location, or send flowers, a note, or food to the nurse's family. (See Honoring a lost colleague.)