Support for bereaved medical students
This is not an exhaustive list by any means. We are keen to include more diversity here.
Please feel free to let us know of other resources you come across
Suggestions for Further Reading and links to meaningful videos – There is plenty from America but virtually nothing from the UK. One exception is a brief article on anticipatory grief in the context of a pandemic when having lost a grandparent.
A key resource from America is the website grief stories of medical students written by renowned Johanna Shapiro who earned her B.A., MA (Counseling Psychology), and PhD (Counseling/Women’s Studies) from Stanford University. Johanna is Professor of Family Medicine and founder and director of the Program in Medical Humanities & Arts, University of California Irvine, School of Medicine. Her book, The Inner World of Medical Students: Listening to Their Voices in Poetry, is a critical analysis of important themes in the socialization process of medical students as expressed through their creative writing.
Association of American Medical Colleges: “some medical students, residents, and medical school faculty who have had to endure their personal grief on top of the heightened stress of medical training during a pandemic.” The article on how medical students cope with personal loss during covid-19 has more detail on what is actually involved with managing this challenge.
An American Medical Student describes loss of her father whilst she is at medical school.
An American philosopher website Midnight Gospel which holds podcasts of interviews with different people about various philosophical matters. Duncan’s Mom Part 1 is a discussion with his mother about her impending death. Duncan’s Mom Part 2 continues on with this profound conversation.
An American medical student talks about deaths she has encountered on placement.
The Grieving Brain by Mary-Frances O’Connor (2022) covers the science as well as meaning behind the grieving process. There is an excellent interview and review of the book here. Mary-Frances sees grieving as a type of learning aimed at restoring a meaningful life whilst carrying the absence of the loved one. She normalizes having a wide ranging toolkit of responses such as task-focused, instrumental, coping or being avoidant, or even in denial, depending on where you are in your process. She believes there are as many different ways to grieve as there are to love.
On explaining death, Dr Kathryn Mannix has a number of resources including With the end in Mind and there is a useful video describing the dying process here.
Atul Gwande has written about death and meaning in Being Mortal and how to have the hard conversations that ensure we never sacrifice what people really care about. “Being Mortal shows that the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life – all the way to the very end”.
Paul Kalathini wrote about his own dying and what really matters in life in When Breath becomes Air. There is a review by Henry Marsh who himself wrote And finally, matters of Life and Death about what matters most in the end.
There are many more books to explore if you are interested in death and dying generally: Living with Dying: Finding Care and Compassion at the End of Life; The Way we die now; The Denial of Death; All that remains; Modern Death and Your Life in My Hands
These help to explore the grieving process and the dilemmas that people face between their own internal processes and social expectations: A Monster Calls; Departures; The Wind Rises; Truly Madly Deeply; Big Fish; Up; A Little Chaos; Bridge to Terabithia; My Name is Khan; Whale Rider; Wild; The Secret of Roan Inish and Amy.
NHS help with grief and loss
Useful links to other organizations
Do’s and don’t suggestions
Useful links to student space https://studentspace.org.uk/
Looking after your mental well-being https://www.studentminds.org.uk/lookingafteryourmentalwellbeing.html
CRUSE Bereavement support and counselling is an option if you want to talk to someone outside of a medical school or healthcare situation.
Blog on how to cope with the loss of a loved one while at university
UK based student describes some common reactions in a post dated 2020 and another one describes what to keep in mind.
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Creating a learning community of bereaved medical students – what’s next?
How to balance Task Focused versus Emotional Coping – to defer or not to defer?
Dual role of medical students & family member – complex relationships & impact on grief