Hospice nurse on significance of final goodbye to loved ones

Saint Francis Hospice community nurse Katy Marling.

Saint Francis Hospice community nurse Katy Marling. - Credit: Saint Francis Hospice

Saint Francis Hospice community nurse Katy Marling discusses the importance of saying goodbye to loved ones.

When we say goodbye, in normal circumstances, we take for granted that we are going to see that person again.

We know that we will say “goodbye”, but a “hello” is just around the corner. The past year has unsettled that balance. Will everything be OK in the morning? Will my loved one need to isolate? Will they go to hospital? Will they come out again?

For those accessing the support of Saint Francis Hospice, the thought of having to say goodbye is altogether a more serious and frightening prospect.

Time is short. How many more hellos do they get before they have to say goodbye?


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Coupled with the Covid-19 pandemic, these every day words have become much more precious and meaningful and the way they are expressed, or in some cases, missed, has been devastating for those affected.

As part of my role as a community nurse, a lot of my work is done over the phone - providing both clinical and emotional support to our community, day and night.

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Coming to Saint Francis Hospice in January 2020, I had no idea that I was starting a new role which was to be hurtled into a situation which none of us could have anticipated.

Providing this support to people predominantly without being able to make face to face contact was a huge challenge and learning curve. Things like tone of voice, time taken, and detailed note taking became even more important.

The most emotional calls during the pandemic have been relating to people who have missed the chance to say goodbye.

People who have received their diagnosis and have deteriorated so quickly that they haven’t had a chance to say goodbye to their grandchildren.

Those of us who have lost loved ones during the pandemic know the pain of not being able to give a hug, one last kiss, or to hear their voice for the last time.

Having been separated from my beautiful nanny who was in hospital for weeks before her death, I know the longing and the pain of wanting to give her a kiss goodbye.

Thankfully, Nanny came in to St Francis Hospice and I was able to say goodbye.

I know that this has not been the case for so many thousands of people, and I will always be grateful for my goodbye to my nanny.

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