Four White Walls

I’ve been a nurse for 6 years now. I’ve worked at three different hospitals specializing in three different areas of medical care. Each job requires different skill sets, different critical thinking skills and different challenges to care, but one thing has always been the same… four white walls.

Have you ever been to a hospital to visit someone, take care of someone or be a patient yourself? If so, you know that your entire existence is placed between 4 walls. You get good news? You celebrate within the walls. You receive bad news? You grieve between the walls. Your family member survives between those white walls and your family member could die between those white walls.

The thought of this has really always stayed with me. On my hard days of being a nurse, I try to drive home the fact that when my shift is over, I leave the hospital. I get at least 12 hours of being out of the same environment that I saw a patient at their worst. Patients and families? They don’t. Their lifeline is between four walls. I see families at their best, but more often than not, at their worst. The families that I see are often the strongest people I know, but like all of us, can only handle so much. You encounter these families all the time, you probably just don’t know it.

I write this because the holiday season is upon us, and sometimes that’s a really really hard time for families who lost a loved one between four walls. Those families are amongst us every single day. It’s the mom at the grocery store who snapped at you for walking in front of her while she was looking at cereal because it reminded her of her little boy that she lost 6 months ago to cancer who would only eat cereal for dinner… and now she’s so angry he’s not here to do it. It’s the dad who yelled at your child for being too loud, because he hasn’t heard his daughters voice in 2 weeks and this is the first Christmas without her. It’s your coworker who never opens up and you talk about how “weird” they are, but you don’t know that it’s the anniversary of when her sibling passed away and she doesn’t know how to get through another holiday without them. That homeless man you see on the corner every week? He used to have a family, but they were all killed in an accident and his last memory of them is between four walls.

I see too many of us not giving others the benefit of the doubt. We’re quick to snap back, quick to judge and quick to walk away… but not quick enough to give compassion, lend a hand to a stranger or offer an ear without giving judgement.

Life is messy. For all of us. Holidays can be the best time for you, but the worst time for someone else. Life is precious. It’s a gift. And sometimes it’s cut too short. Grieving has no face, no time limit and no expectations. Be kind. Be gentle. And most importantly, be compassionate. This week you could be on top of the world just like they were… next week could always be different. We all deserve grace.

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