That Grief That Comes With Losing a Doctor


doctor holding a patient's hand

When I was a sophomore in college, I shared a fifth-floor studio apartment in a pre-war, walk-up Manhattan building with a dear friend. For many New Yorkers, it was customary to take one’s laundry to a dry cleaner to be washed and folded if you didn’t have access to machines in your building. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones, so every couple of weeks, I’d lug my gray, jersey laundry bag down five flights of narrow stairs and drop it off with the sweet couple who owned the cleaners attached to my building. They were such an endearing duo – always greeting me with a smile, holding onto our odd-shaped packages until we returned home at night and folding all of my clothes with enviably crisp corners. When my roommate and I decided to make the move to Brooklyn, one of the things I would miss most was this couple. They had become a part of my daily routine – a comfort to see and a reminder that to a certain point, I was universally cared for.

I tell you this story to illustrate the importance that people can have on your life. Perhaps you’d like to substitute my dry cleaners for your local grocery store clerk, or the wide-smiling FedEx delivery guy who always tosses your pup a treat. Now, take that emotional response and double it for the people, aside from family and friends, who have a tremendous impact on your day-to-day: an especially caring pharmacist, your energizing mentor, your watchdog of a next-door neighbor. To move away or to lose one of these individuals guts you a little bit more than most. You can feel the absence in your every day and notice the spaces they once filled.

Now, for a person that struggles with chronic/mental illness, try tripling that response. Does it hurt in the parts of you that you didn’t even know you could feel pain in? That is what it is like to lose a doctor, nurse, surgeon or therapist on…