Everyone is experiencing loss: loss of income, loss of dreams, loss of expectations, loss of health, and even the unspeakable, tragic loss of a loved one. We are witness as well as casualties of our own loss. Such double exposure hits us hard. We hurt for our patients who cannot see their loved ones, even those who are not infected with this virus. Those of us in the ICU’s ache under the heavy weight of the cumulative tragedies we struggled so hard to prevent, all the while worrying over our own loved ones. Those of us outside of COVID-19 settings feel guilty, yet still experiencing our own losses. Here are some thoughts to consider:
1) All loss is legitimate. All loss needs to be acknowledged and grieved. The loss of a birthday party to a 5 year old or a graduation ceremony to a High School student seems very trivial compared to the loss of life, but not to that 5 year old or that Senior Student. We can only understand loss through our own eyes, and all loss is valid. Comparison inhibits healing and is irrelevant. All loss needs serious acknowledgement and acceptance of those feelings, which is in itself a hugely helpful intervention.
2) All loss needs expression, which is individual for every person. Tears are always helpful, releasing the pain to make room for healing. Please remember, dear nurses, crying for your patients and with your patients is always appropriate (see previous blog on Silent Comfort). Find the modes of expression that fit you. Find an accepting and reinforcing ear. Write, paint, draw, sing, or record your thoughts, your heartache, whether big or small. Let it out in order to let it go.
3) Honor that loss. Put the energy of grief into some positive action. Send a card to someone who needs it. Light a candle. Bake some muffins. Plant a flower. Say a prayer. Doing anything helpful for anyone can be healing, and a great way to express your own pain. When you cannot take away the pain of your own loss, the next best thing is to make someone else feel better.
4) Comfort yourself. Watch feel-good movies, give yourself a home Spa Day, or read the comics online. Do something kind and pamper yourself in some way. Facetime your friends, Zoom your old roommate, connect with people who are warm and helpful near and far. Anxiety is contagious, so avoid too much time with such people, but stay connected with loved ones.
As nurse, you are experts at comforting others. Now is the time to refuel and comfort yourselves. Nourish your bodies and minds, build up your emotional reserves. Take time for yourselves, mentally and physically. You are a great treasure to all who know you, and all for whom you care. Blessings ~ Janice