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Sun, Apr 19 9:45am · Grief and critical illness recovery in Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)

black stone, hart, stone, heart stone, solid, rock, rock - object ...

When we talk about critical illness recovery, we often speak about physical debility, fatigue, anxiety, depression and even anger. But less often do we name another very common experience and emotion – grief. After all, you just survived a critical illness, why would you be grieving? Shouldn’t you be thankful, happy even? That may how the outside world interprets your experience, but for you thankfulness and happiness during this time may be very elusive emotions.

To navigate through grief during your recovery, it helps to better understand grief on a different level. In fact, it can be grief that ultimately underlies many of the other emotions one may experience during recovery from critical illness.

After critical illness, there are many things people find themselves grieving. The loss of vitally important things like your health, job, financial security, roles within social circles and the family unit are just a few that can be named. These aren’t traditional types of losses like death that most people associate with grief, but they are impactful losses nonetheless.

Grief that is associated with something other than death can be referred to disenfranchised grief. The kind of loss that leads to this type of grief often cannot be fully recognized. Because of this many people who are experiencing disenfranchised grief commonly do not have the traditional support offered to them that their “normally” grieving counterparts do.

So how does one best handle disenfranchised grief? One way to start is by identifying your loss. Call this what it is. If during your recovery from critical illness, you are experiencing loss of your health, job, financial security, social/family roles, relationships, etc. recognize that these are real losses. It’s not just mere circumstance of your situation that things aren’t the way they were before, but rather this is real, actual loss that you are experiencing.

Experiencing grief through loss during your critical illness recovery is a normal and healthy part of the recovery process

Second, work on accurately identifying your feelings surrounding your loss. It is very normal and expected for one to experience grief through loss. So experiencing grief through loss during your critical illness recovery is a normal and healthy part of the recovery process. Accepting this and letting this grief naturally evolve is a gift you can give your healing self.

Finally, some people may find symbolic actions or rituals to be helpful when processing disenfranchised loss.  The following is an example of a symbolic action to manage this type of grief.

Think of the painful loss you are experiencing due to your critical illness. Often these losses follow you for longer than you would wish to imagine they would, and over time the burden can become a very heavy weight to bear. Choose a phrase that summarizes your heaviest loss. Maybe it’s your former job or a lost relationship. Write that phrase on a heavy stone. Take that stone and physically move it to a place far from where you are. This act symbolizes removing this heavy weight, this heavy burden of loss away from you.

Grief is a natural and expected part of recovering from critical illness. Allowing yourself to experience this as it is, will ultimately enhance your overall recovery. Connecting with others who have gone through such healing can also be an important part of this process. Make sure to check out our online support group to meet others recovering from critical illness: Intensive Care Support Group


Thu, Apr 2 9:58am · COVID-19 and the ICU: Online support is available in Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)


Recovering from critical illness/injury can be very difficult for people even in the best of circumstances. Any additional outside stressors may potentially amplify the challenges faced during recovery. With the direct impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on daily lives, it is no surprise that those currently recovering from critical illness are experiencing this more acutely. With social distancing in effect and changes in access to regular healthcare providers, resources that play an important role in critical illness recovery have become more difficult to find.

However, there are resources available to you from the comfort and safety of your home. Support groups are widely known to play an incredible role in the healing process from any illness or injury, and as always Mayo Clinic Connect hosts a fantastic variety of online support groups. Specifically during this time, there are several discussions happening focused on COVID-19 and the multitude of ways this is impacting people’s lives. Becoming critically ill with COVID-19 or having a loved one who is, presents even more unique challenges. Please join our many conversations regarding COVID-19 and specifically COVID-19: What does it mean for people in ICU and for families?

The many other threads can be found here: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/group/covid-19/

Our Mayo Clinic ICU Recovery Team will be regularly posting on this blog to provide helpful tips and information for people and families at home during this time who are in the process of recovering from a critical illness/injury. Check back often, and in the meantime be well!

Mon, Mar 23 4:38am · COVID-19: What does it mean for people in ICU and for families? in Intensive Care (ICU)

@ltecato I like your suggestion of ensuring there are chargers for cellphones etc. that the patients may be using. Many of us are so dependent upon on our phones to keep in contact with those that are closest to us. It may also be something to think about donating to local facilities!

Mon, Mar 16 4:41pm · COVID-19: What does it mean for people in ICU and for families? in Intensive Care (ICU)

Thank you for the message @ltecato . And thank you for being so thoughtful during this time regarding your health and the health of others. If you have not already done so, I would start by suggesting you contact the health care facility that your Mother is currently in. Many organizations right now are working hard on creating policies and procedures to ensure the safety of everyone in the facility as well as those who are visiting. I am glad you found this site where you can connect with others who may have shared experiences.

Sat, Jan 25 3:29pm · The ICU experience from a loved one's perspective in Intensive Care (ICU)

Critical illness has a very broad reach. Not only is the patient directly affected, but also loved ones and caregivers. With this discussion, I’d like to provide a space for loved ones, family members and friends who have experienced this side of the ICU – A place to share and connect with others who have been there.

What’s your ICU experience? What surprised you about being with a loved one who was admitted to ICU? How are you doing now?

Thu, Jan 23 4:17pm · Anniversary of my hospital stay/ Pregnant in the ICU in Intensive Care (ICU)

@cinditree I am so happy you found this space where you can share your story. You are definitely not alone! What you experienced was very traumatic and what you are dealing with in the aftermath of it all is very normal. Many people who have been so sick experience hallucinations. Sometimes these hallucinations are very difficult to move past. I am going to tag @kariulrich and @jslate as well to this post as they have both shared similar experiences with us. You may want to check out their thread here: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/nightmares-hallucinations/

Nov 1, 2019 · Introducing the Mayo Clinic ICU Recovery Program in Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)

MCIRPMayo Clinic has been focused on improving the lives of patients who have experienced critical illness/injury for the past several years.

Through work with international collaboratives, raising awareness through educational initiatives, and by hosting in person and online peer support groups, Mayo Clinic has helped raise awareness of and address the issues that many people face during recovery from critical illness/injury.

This is why we are so excited to announce the development of the Mayo Clinic ICU Recovery Program (MCIRP). The primary goal of the MCIRP is to improve recovery and help people return to their best level of functioning possible. This program includes not only the existing educational initiatives and support groups but also includes a new outpatient follow-up clinic!

This clinic has been developed for current Mayo Clinic patients, 18 years of age or older, who have stayed in the ICU while in the hospital. It is:

  • Staffed by active members of the ICU team who specialize in ICU recovery
  • Open to patients along all recovery timelines from recent ICU stays to years out

If you or a loved one are interested in more information regarding the MCIRP, please contact us at:

Email: mayopostICU@mayo.edu

Phone: 507-284-4348


Oct 28, 2019 · Save The Date: Patient Education Day at Mayo Clinic in Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS)

                            You are invited!

Please consider joining us for this unique opportunity to learn about Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome and Critical Illness Recovery. This is a free one-day event designed to bring together patients, clinicians, and patient advocates to learn more about these important topics. This event is being held live in-person as well as available via webinar (more details regarding webinar coming soon).

To sign up see the following link: Connect Calendar