Grief: A Nurse’s Journey of Self-Awareness and Healing

Grief is a strange thing. I thought I was doing well with the unexpected loss of my significant other, Tony to suicide March 4, 2016. The first two years were especially difficult for me, and I found myself wondering how I would go on without him. As time went on, I began to come to the realization that I could live without him and not feel so sad every single day.

This may sound odd, but it wasn't until I lost Max my companion parrot of 20 years, and my best friend Peg in the span of 4 months, that I began to understand grief. You see, I realized that grief is a journey. It is not a fluid process by any means. There are stops and starts on this journey as there is with life. One day you feel happy, like you can enjoy life; but the next day you find yourself sad and wondering if you can go on.

In my naivety I thought that grief would end, as finite as ending a relationship or a job. However, the grieving never stops. As the noted author on death and dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross realized later in life, the 5 stages of the grief were not linear or a predictable progression. Her conclusion was insightful; grief is not a linear process. It can be unpredictable and tangled.

I often find myself thinking what is there for me now? How can I go on as if everything is okay, when it is not? My friends tell me that I should “move on". But what exactly does that mean? For me moving on would mean forgetting those I have lost as well as many cherished memories. I feel that a person who experiences a loss doesn’t move on, but instead learns to cope with their loss. They find a way to enjoy life again, yet keeping their loved one/s close to their heart. They find a new normal.

I know now that I will continue my grief journey, as long as I am on this earth. As a result of my experiences with grief, I am able to better connect with my patients that are grieving a loss and provide them with support. I find myself more empathetic towards others; no matter what type of grief they may be experiencing; a loss of health, loss of self, loss of a loved one. I have found greater sense of self, and what really matters.

Kubler-Ross E, Kessler, D., (2014). On grief and grieving :finding the meaning of grief through the 5 stages of loss. New York: Screbner isbn: 97814767755555

About the Author

Abbey Fuller is a Registered Nurse and a published author. She has a Ph.D. in Nursing and has been teaching Nursing for over 15 years.  She has an interest in researching grief and the grieving process.