How do you keep going when your heart is being ripped out?
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
How do you serve when your heart is being ripped out, when the suffering in the world seems too much to bear? While many nurses are giving bedside care and seeing the devastation of this pandemic in a profound and horrifying way, many are dealing with different nuances and repercussions of the health crisis and resultant shut down.
So the question is, regardless of what role you are in, how do we continue to serve? How do we continue to be nurses, in whatever shape that takes, when we see the persistent suffering of the people around us? Maybe it is staring at us from the faces of ill and hospitalized patients. Maybe it is in the faces of those who are struggling with loss of work and closed businesses, or the kids who are staring at a screen all day in an effort to maintain education. Maybe it is in the faces of the socially isolated, the elderly who are living alone and in fear, the new moms who don’t have any social support, or the friends and families who have lost loved ones. There is tremendous opportunity to offer care, to serve, to support. But it can also feel overwhelming, as these faces of suffering may be our own.
So how do we give care when we are tired and irritated? When there is lack of support?
We go back to basics.
Remember that nursing is not just a degree you got. You ARE a nurse; even on your bad days, even when you have too many patients or not enough support.
Focus on the patient in the present moment. Who can you care for right then? Not in 20 minutes, or after you finish charting, or when all your meds are done. Who is in front of you right now? Be a nurse to the check out lady at Shoprite, or your kids, or your coworkers. Be your best self, whatever that looks like now.
Direct your intention on giving a piece of yourself to that moment, not out of scarcity but out of abundance. There is ALWAYS enough love available. We know that when we act out of love, we get to feel the benefit and support of that love. The patient may not feel it at all. They may be confused or delusional, they may be ungrateful or impatient. It doesn’t actually matter because the nurse sharing from a place of true compassion is the one who feels the greatest effect of that compassion. Basically, giving care is a way to feel better.
Let go of the things you can’t do right now and know that this is ok, you are supporting a greater good. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t tell yourself you should do more. What does that even mean? If you could do more, you would. Give yourself the space to grieve as you continue to do what you need to do and let the rest go.
We serve because we are the strongest, the most fit for this job.
Any time we lighten someone’s suffering we are nurses.
Every time we answer medical questions for family and friends we are nurses.
Everytime we show compassion when no one else can, we are nurses.
Everytime we cut someone a little slack, we are nurses.
Everytime we show up with creative solutions, we are nurses.
Everytime we want to give more than we think we have, we are nurses.
Everytime we do our best work with whatever tools we have at that moment, we are nurses. Everytime we say “I can’t take any more” and yet we continue to show up, we are nurses.
As my friend Heidi told me (paraphrased), when trauma splits your heart open, it cracks it open for love. This is what will heal us and get us through the heartache of our world today. We can be the source and the beneficiary of the love.
It is enough, even when it doesn’t feel like it.
I am truly grateful to be a nurse, I am grateful to be able to offer some support to those around me.
I am grateful for all of you.
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