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Tips for Coping with Loss Working with Cancer Patients

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I have worked as a Phlebotomist at a Cancer Center for over four years now. Any job you have has its share of struggles, stress, and expectations but nothing compares to watching a patient suffer then coping with loss and grief afterward when you’re working in oncology.


Throughout the Chemotherapy process, you witness the changes it does to their body and spirit. However, the heaviness of the heart when the patient passes away can get to you spiritually if you don’t lean on your source of strength…God!


7 Tips for Coping with Loss Working with Cancer Patients


Dr’s Office uses a clinical term when a patient passes away. Inside the individual’s chart, it will say “expired” and I absolutely HATE that term and wish it can be listed as something else. It’s like they’re being compared to a gallon of milk expiring when they are so much more than that! That being said I want to help you learn 7 Ways to Help You Cope with the Loss of a Patient or loved one to Cancer.

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Coping with loss and grief: Cancer Patients


1. What is the most important way of coping with loss and grief?


Learn to lean on the perfect everlasting love and grace of the Heavenly Father to see you through it! Working with cancer patients is rewarding but hard as well.


For me personally, my strength comes from the Lord. If I didn’t have God to lean on in times of loss I wouldn’t be able to do my job. In all honesty, losing a patient never gets easier for me because I get so attached.


I have a confession to make. There have been numerous times where I have taken a patient to their room once I return to my lab bay I fall apart in tears. That’s no joke!


I’ve practically begged God if the individual has accepted him as their Lord and Savior PLEASE end their suffering. Now I realize this isn’t Angie’s call to make but some days it’s too much to bear.


2. Coping with Loss and Grief: don’t keep your emotions locked up.


Sweet Friend, If you’re like me you wear your heart and emotions on your sleeve so to speak. I’m not someone who can bottle up my emotions and detach myself from the situation.


I realize for some detaching themselves is the way they cope. I’m not wired that way, however. In my opinion, the patient can sense if we’re genuine in our care for them and what they’re dealing with.


I’m sure they’d rather have a caring and tender Caregiver, not a Cyborg that doesn’t display emotions. In my heart, I truly believe it shows them we are human too and feel empathy and sadness over their situation.


3. Coping with Loss and Grief: Lean on those around you for support.


Such as:

  • Pastors
  • Elders
  • Spouse
  • Friends
  • Family Members
  • Lifegroup Leaders or Members
  • Co-Workers
  • Therapists

Personally, what I feel is a sense of Peace the Patient is no longer suffering “IF” I know they’re a born again follower of Jesus Christ. That alone helps in the dark times when their loss is too much to bear.


It's NEVER goodbye when you lose a loved one in Christ! It's the hope we have in Christ when we can say I will see you soon. Save a place for me! Click To Tweet

Please don’t get me wrong. Losing the individual is difficult and downright sad and it takes time to work through those emotions. That being said our sole purpose on this earth is honoring Jesus and bringing Glory to God!


Most of my cancer patients are extremely sick but you’ll hear them sharing Christ with others around them declaring how God is Good ALL THE TIME even when their situation gets worse and doesn’t change.


Talking about being a good witness for Jesus Christ for others to see!


So that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2Thessalonians 1:12


4. COPING WITH LOSS AND GRIEF: CONTINUe TO OFFER SUPPORT TO THE FAMILIES.


For some, it’s too hard to walk into our practice again so soon because it’s like pouring salt on a wound. Grieving is natural and it’s not a one size fits all for loved ones left behind.


Just know that you shouldn’t take it personally if your loved ones lash out. You must keep in mind that they’re hurting also and need to express the emotions they’re going through.


Keep showing the same support and love that Jesus Christ displays to You and I and allow them the opportunity to reach out to you if they need help with anything.


5. COPING WITH LOSS AND GRIEF: HONOR THE INDIVIDUAL’S MEMORY


I have lost so many patients that have meant the world to me. To be honest they were more like family. Having a close clinical/patient relationship it’s hard NOT to “bond” with them on a personal level. Our office allows the patient to request a certain Phlebotomist when they check-in and I have numerous patients request me. As a matter of fact, it’s NOT just me but all of the Lab Techs.


Allow me to tell you about one Patient in particular. His name is Michael and he made such a HUGE impact in my life. If you wanna know how he made a difference for me personally read Treasured Memories and his story will bless you also.


When I did this post in Michael’s Honor I forwarded it to his wife because I knew it’d be something she would Forever Treasure. I planned on offering my condolences to the family at his service then leaving but I felt the Holy Spirit say one word…STAY


That’s exactly what I did Sweet Friend 


I’m so thankful I did. Michael’s Wife forwarded my post to their Pastor. Y’all this is how AMAZING God is. I wanted to Honor and Bless the Family but I received a much bigger Blessing!


Can you guess what the Pastor’s Eulogy was taken from? If you said my Post You’d be correct. As he started sharing the story I sat in the back between two more patients and they knew it was my post.


Friends I am very shy and backward and not one who seeks attention so when the Pastor said a young lady who works at the Oncology office where Michael was treated my words are her words.


Then he said, “Angie if you’re here can you please raise your hand?”

-Pastor

I was a blubbering mess but my point is when you Bless others you’ll be blessed much more. I promise you that’s the truth!


6. COPING WITH LOSS AND GRIEF: REMIND YOURSELF “WHY” YOU’RE WORKING WITH CANCER PATIENTS


Working with cancer patients can be difficult at times and I’m not going to give you a half-truth and deny that fact. That being said it makes my heart happy to play a small role in helping the Patients through one of the most challenging trials they will face this side of Eternity. 


Jesus was a servant and I want to model the way he served to bless others. I tell people ALL the time that I’m blessed to use my job as a Ministry to bring light into the darkness.


As I’ve stated before I have several Autoimmune Disorders and was feeling rather sorry for myself for the longest time. In my heart, I know God opened up this opportunity for me to find this job to teach me that I can have it much worse than I do.


I’m so grateful for the lessons learned and how it’s grown my relationship with my Perfect Heavenly Father!


7. WAY OF COPING WITH LOSS AND GRIEF: “KEEP MARCHING FORWARD!”


Y’all if we allow ourselves to dwell on the loss of patients alone (NOT how we’re helping them) we’d get so down and out and discouraged we wouldn’t want to put one foot in front of the other.


Let me share the most recent passing of Roger and how it’s changed me. I’ve worked in this field to know when the patient is rapidly declining and you know that aren’t gonna be around much longer.


I was witnessing with Roger and Praying he was ready to meet Jesus? A couple of days before he passed away when he came for his appointment you could tell he was struggling. As soon as he sat down and got his breath back he said…


“Angie I need YOU to do something for ME?” My reply was…”You Got It!” He said, “Will You Please Pray with Me?”

My reply was…ABSOLUTELY!”

So I closed my curtain, got down on my knees, took his hands in mine, and Prayed right then and there! I felt nothing but Peace…He passed away two days later.


I’ve given the 7 ways of Coping with Loss and Grief and below are 9 Bible Verses About Comfort


He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4


In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 1 Corinthians 15:52


Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalms 23:4


But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4


Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10


Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4


He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Psalms 147:3


Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4


In Closing on 7 Tips for Coping with Loss Working with Cancer Patients


Sweet Friend, You and I have the opportunity when it comes to coping with loss…We can be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ while serving those we’re in contact with.


I personally can’t think of a more rewarding way of being a servant for Christ than serving MY PATIENTS! A beautiful soul is never forgotten and I hope I’ve given you insight on how you can help others Coping with Loss too.


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Enjoy Danny Gokey’s Song…Hope in Front of Me to know better days will be ahead Sweet Friend



much love, your sister in Christ, Angie

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6 Comments

  1. Angie, I so very much wish that I was under your care when I was going through my own personal experience with cancer. Your overwhelming ability to comfort and show compassion for those who are coping with loss is so beautiful. I hope you realize what a blessing you are. God put you right where He needed you when you got your job. You are a great example of being the hands and feet of Jesus.

    1. Your Sweet words mean so much to me, Wendy. It’s Amazing how God opens doors for us to be used to help one another. I appreciate YOU and the way YOU inspire me with the life you live too. God is going to do Amazing things in your life and use you in a mighty way, sweet Friend!

  2. Coping with loss is so hard. Thank you for writing such a beautiful piece at an amazing time for me as I am going through this. I hate the word expired too!

    1. Thank You so much for your support and encouragement, Jessie. It means so much to me to know what I write about speaks to someone’s heart and helps them through whatever they’re going through at a particular time. I am so glad to know that I’m not alone with the “expired” term. I know it’s just a medical term that must be used but I still don’t have to like it.

  3. Thank You so much, Tiffany, for your feedback. Believe it or not, I tell the patients quite often that I believe God has given me too much Compassion at times. I feel deeply and it’s hard NOT to get attached to them throughout their Journey. It pulls on my heartstrings most days but I’m thankful God opened this opportunity to be there for them in any way I can. Your Welcome and Thank You so much for your Support and Encouragement. It means so much to me

  4. I love your point “The Second Way of Coping with Loss is don’t keep your emotions locked up.” It really is hard to let those emotions out because it feels like people want you to… I don’t know… just get over the loss. Like if they were saved we should be happy with the loss because they are better off… but it still hurts on this side. Thanks for the encouragement.

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