Heartache fills me today as I write this post. I spent my day at Alberta Children’s Hospital participating in a pediatric palliative care workshop. It was absolutely beneficial, and I am grateful I took it, however it left me feeling emotionally drained.
I arrived home and not one hour later did I find out that an old friend’s beautiful newborn passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Upon learning this, all the grief and emotions I had been bottling away today, and truthfully, for the last few months, came bubbling to the surface and I dissolved into a mess of tears.
I am asked all the time “I don’t know how you do what you do”, and my standard response is “most kids come in sick, but leave well”. I rarely delve into the darker and more emotional side of things. The truth is however, sometimes it is just damn hard.
Dealing with an actual death is one thing, but for myself, anticipatory grief is the worst. I struggle holding children in my arms who have a poor prognosis and knowing there is perhaps only weeks or months left. I mourn for the hole they are going to leave in the lives of those who they touch, and often struggle to find meaning in their deaths, or shortened life spans. It breaks my heart watching parents wrestle with a new reality, and feel empty when I arrive to work, only to discover a little one is no longer in this world with us.
I won’t pretend that these situations are about me, because they certainly aren’t, but I can’t deny how affected I am by them. I am grateful for my spirituality, and the trust that these little ones are lucky, because they receive a heavenly reward so soon, without the pain and suffering a longer earthly life can bring. I still do grapple with the feelings of anger or uncertainty for those left behind to mourn.
A line that struck me in my workshop today was “grief is the price we pay for loving”. I take some comfort in the fact that I am able to connect on a level with those I care for that I do grieve, proof of their impact on earth. Although I still do struggle on occassion with the “how” of pediatric nursing, specifically regarding death, I still feel absolutely grateful and privledged to be in this profession.
Tonight, I hug my little girls a little tighter, and make my prayers a little more earnest for those who are hurting. I hope they also feel some sense of peace when times are dark and the hurt is overwhelming.