Nurse Grief? Let’s Talk About It

Superhero. Miracle worker. Angel on earth.

Those 3 words, along with many others, are words I’ve heard nurses being described. The most common one, superhero.

To be honest, it’s never resonated with me. I’ve never viewed myself as a superhero and I’ve always viewed my job just like everyone else’s… difficult at times, but could be worse, right? After all, 3 days on, 4 days off! Isn’t that the dream? Well… that was my opinion, until recently anyways.

0515: Alarm goes off. Get up. Mentally prepare yourself… there’s no time to be tired, you have lives in your hands.

0615: Out the door. Check my phone. Text from night shift coworker, patient in 000 didn’t make it. Crap. They were one of my favorites. I can’t think about this. Cannot have clouded vision going into work. Will grieve later. Oh my heart..

0645: Shift report begins. 2 transfusions today, patient in 0025 had fevers all night. Chemo due at 4. New diagnosis coming today. Get your self together.

0700-730pm work all day. Did I pee? I think I did. Did I clock out for lunch? Wait- did I eat lunch? Can’t remember. Stomach says no. Still need to go to PICU to see my friend and their family. Not a good looking situation, praying for healing.

800pm: Drive home. Remember that text from this morning. Oh God. Why does this happen? What did we do wrong? Could I have saved them? Could I have spoken up more? Tears. So many tears.

830pm: Arrive home. Dog waiting at the door with 1,000 licks. Jump in the shower. Eat dinner at 9pm. Go to bed, will grieve when I have a day off, right? Have to be back up in the morning, can’t do this now.

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

The truth is, nurse grief is not talked about enough. And it’s real. It is so real. The things that we often see? I pray it never becomes a normal site for me. I’d never wish for you to see them, either. But nurses? We see them everyday and are expected to wake back up the next morning and return to the place we saw them.

I’d never change my job for the world. It’s my heart and soul and I firmly believe it’s what I was destined to do. The connections and the celebrations that I have with my patient and families? I’ll never forget them. The moments of happiness, excitement and relief watching a patient successfully complete treatment? The feeling is indescribable.

But it’s hard. And it’s real. And while we work our tails off to change the lives of our patients and families, we still grieve. But with grief comes healing and healing means strength. So this superhero title that we’ve been so graciously given? I’m finally wearing it with pride.

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