Simon Parrett, an Education Facilitator from Dorothy House’s Education & Training Team, recently spent some time with staff at Coleman & Starkey Dental Practice in Trowbridge. Seeing as Simon is one of our End of Life Care Education facilitators, readers may be a little disconcerted at the thought of ‘end of life’ and ‘dentist’ being in the same sentence.
However, the focus of Simon’s visit was to talk to staff at the practice about conversations they were having with patients who had been bereaved.
For many of us, going to the dentist is one of those routines in life. And with routines come memories.
The dentists and hygienists were finding that the first time patients attended alone after their partner died was often hard for them. Patients felt they knew staff as they’d been a patient for many years, and it felt strange for them to be going alone.
One of the major threads in bereavement study is the concept of ‘continuing bonds’. Being at the dentist is one of those times when there is just such a ‘continuing bond’, if this something you always did together with the person who has died, and staff were finding that patients were wanting to talk.
The time Simon spent with dentists and staff, talking about how people react to grief and loss, greatly helped their understanding of what their patients were going through and how their listening could be such a helpful support for people going through bereavement and loss. It also encouraged staff to reflect on their own feelings around grief and loss, to accept that there is pain associated with grief, and not to feel uncomfortable when this is expressed.
Mike Starkey from the practice said:
“Over the years our patients have become our friends. We understand how upsetting bereavement is and we feel their loss when a partner dies.
We wanted to make sure that how we responded as individuals and as a team to bereavement was appropriate and would not make things worse.
Simon was excellent; kind, understanding, knowledgeable and a wonderful facilitator helping our team to understand the bereavement process and reassuring us that we did not need to feel uncomfortable, and although there is no one single way to help patients with bereavement, we were doing the right thing in being open and honest and caring and supportive.
I would wholly recommend Dorothy House and Simon to any organisation who feels that they would like to know more, or believes that they would benefit from the understanding the grief process and how to help people through it.”