The coming-home-after-work story is the same for so many of us.
The door closes. Lights are turned on. Wallet and keys on the kitchen bench. Maybe there’s a glass of wine poured. You’re on autopilot: dinner and shower and bed. Thinking how long it’s been since morning and what a day it was. Maybe you didn’t-quite-meet a deadline. Maybe your boss was crunching numbers and looking at you for answers. Maybe you had a difficult client who keeps asking you to “flesh out” an already-fleshed-out idea and you have no idea how you’re going to show up tomorrow.
Your day was hard enough, and you never had someone else’s life in your hand.
For others – nurses, doctors, fire fighters, paramedics – it’s the same routine. Except for some days. When they’ve lost someone. Or delivered bad news. Or when they’ve had to tell the parents of an 18-year-old car crash victim that their daughter did not make it. Then these days are infinitely more difficult.
One woman, a nurse, has shared her coming-home-after-work story for the most beautiful reason.
Not for applause or recognition. But as an explanation. Showing that, behind the gloved hands and the well-rehearsed masks of compassion-but-no-real-connection from nurses and doctors in hospitals, there is a human who feels the death of your daughter or your son or your mother or your brother just as piercingly as you. They just can’t show it.
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It was the day she told the 18-year-old’s parents about their daughter’s death.
“You fall to the nasty hospital floor, not caring for the bacteria that may be there. Your world just shattered. You are shattered. And I stand there with a grim face, my hands clasped in front of me. You clutch each other. You scream. You cry,” a nurse wrote on Reddit in An open letter to the parents who I told that their daughter was dead this morning.
“I don’t change facial expression. I offer any help that I can. You decline and cling to each other harder. I stand awkwardly beside you. I pass you Kleenex. A glass of water.”
“What you don’t know is that I, too, am shattered.”
She wrote about bringing her work home with her.
“I cry the whole way home. I looked up your daughter on Facebook. She was beautiful. Just graduated high school,” the letter reads. “She had a whole life and world ahead of her. It isn’t fair. I beat my steering wheel and rage when I get home and park. I throw my nursing bag across the kitchen. I drop to the floor, like you, and cry.”
She wrote about the small things hospital staff do to make things easier for grieving families.
"There was no coming back from a closed skull fracture like that," she said. "We wouldn’t tell you, but we fanned out her hair so that you wouldn’t see the extent of swelling that had occurred. No parent should have to see their baby like that."
She told of the empathy she felt for the family, thinking the car crash victim could have been her own brother.
"Though I’m too young for children even close to your daughter’s age, I have a younger brother who is 18," she wrote. "He does just what your daughter was doing: riding around the back roads with friends late at night. It could have just as easily been him wrapped around that light pole dead in the road."
Robin Bailey on talking to kids about grief. Post continues below.
And finally, she spoke about the grief all nurses feel. Even when they can't show it. Even when they're being professional and trying to be brave.
"We nurses may not show it at times, are unable to show it –whether it be to save face, hospital policy, or to just be courageous and supportive– but we do care," the letter reads. "Your hurts are our hurts. We grieve with you. So please, just know that your grief is felt. It is shared."