When a stable patient suddenly feels depressed and can’t pinpoint a stressor, I sometimes ask if a loved one passed away around that time of year. After pausing for moments to think, oftentimes the answer is “yes.”
I had a rough week that I initially attributed to having a heavy workload, but realized that the theme I struggled with the most was death and grief. I felt sad to hear news that one of my patients died and grew frustrated each time I heard the word “suicidal.” I’m normally diligent and confident in managing my patients, but my emotions overwhelmed me.
Nine years ago, my grandfather passed away. I regularly blame myself for not attending his funeral in the Philippines because right before he died, he asked that I stay home, focus on my studies, and make him proud by becoming a doctor. I live with regret, but recognize that I’ll keep struggling around this time of year until I learn to forgive myself and accept that my grandfather is gone.