Small acts of kindnessBMJ 2018; 363 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.k5136 (Published 10 December 2018) Cite this as: BMJ 2018;363:k5136
- Abi Rimmer
- The BMJ
GP in east London and vice chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
Oh, dear—another busy surgery, and Mrs Smith had been squeezed in again with her long list of ailments. Halfway through the list she stopped. “You’re not yourself today, Dr Marshall,” she said. “Are you OK?”
“I’m sorry,” I told her. “My dad died last week, and I’m struggling a bit.” Personal disclosure. Too personal?
“I won’t burden you,” she said, leaving before I could say anything and failing to hide her tears.
That afternoon I was handed an envelope. On the outside were the words, “This gave me solace when I lost my husband.” Inside was a poem by David Harkins:
You can shed tears that they have gone or you can smile because they have lived . . .
You can cry, close your mind and be empty, or you can do what they would want:
Smile, open your eyes, love and go on.
Patients care for their carers.
Dean, Royal College of Psychiatrists
The first time I became a parent I simultaneously became childless. Due on Boxing Day, our baby was born still. Theoretical knowledge about nature’s unrelenting cruelty came to life. In the bleak midwinter, the bleakest grief came to stay.
Losing a child is a desperate experience. There are no words, but on reflection she brought me riches: the midwife who crossed boundaries to bring me homecooked food when I couldn’t eat; the baggage handler and his wife who, united in grief, became my friends; the colleague …