Today, we practiced delivering bad news.
We went through an example in class, saw a video of a woman telling her patient that he has cancer. When we practiced in our small group sessions, the patient had died and our task was to tell the spouse.
It's odd, the way that we beginners practice. We all worked from a script, a set formula, a conversational form letter involving "warning shots" and "plain, layman's terms" and silence. We used the same phrases, each of us:
"I'm so sorry that this happened."
"We did everything we could."
"Is there someone else you would like to be here?"
"I'll give you some time, but I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Do you have any questions for me?"
In the evaluation, the woman I delivered the news to played her part well. She was a newly-widowed mother of two, and of course her concern went immediately to her children.
I couldn't help but think of Dad. This whole session, I kept remembering the day he died, the way I remember time as very nebulous, how I don't quite remember how long after I called 911 that my mom came back home, that I don't remember how long it took for the middle school principal to drive Ben home, that I only remember seeing him there in the front hallway, Mom kneeling at his head, surrounded by EMTs despite the DNR, despite his being at home on hospice; I only remember that I hadn't known what to do except do what they show on TV, which is call 911. Looking back, I wonder who called the school? How did the principal decide to bring Ben home? What did they tell him on the car ride?
My evaluation session ended positively. My actor/doctor said that she had "felt cared for," that I had shown that I was caring for her whole family. I couldn't tell her that I had only tried to do what I think must have helped my mom get through this: someone to take the heavy and unthought-of tasks and manage them.