Welcome to the Black Parade
Updated: Sep 23, 2019
It's that time of year again and as a nurse or any healthcare worker, it sucks. It's like having your heart ripped out and seeing it get torn to shreds right before your very eyes.
A year ago, for the very first time and probably the only time I'll ever see it happen in my entire nursing career, we lost 14 residents. I know that people come to us to live out their final days, but they were dropping like flies. It seemed like we were losing people every single day. There were the ones that we saw take a slow decline until they took their final breaths and then of course, there were unexpected ones (one minute everything would be fine and then they were gone. You never saw it coming and it could have been anyone). In healthcare, seeing them go in threes with one being unexpected is the most absolute law. It's the only thing that isn't subjective.
Our hearts were broken. Then, just like any facility, we saw the new cycle of brand new residents moving in. They nestled into our hearts and fit right in along with our originals. We made new memories with them and got attached.
The past two weeks have been rough and we've recently lost one that brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I hope and pray that we did everything we possibly could have done to give them a decent quality of life. We'll miss that smile and all of the silly faces we shared with them. We'll miss the sweet sound of Elvis Presley followed by a few laughs and the rest of the staff singing along. We'll forever cherish the kisses on our hands and cheeks and long for the tightest hugs you could ever receive.
Our hearts are broken and we hate to let them go, but they're no longer suffering. The diseases and illnesses we see are pure torture and coming to terms with death isn't easy, but it hurts even more to watch them suffer through all of it.
I try to remain professional about it all the time, but it's literally the hardest thing I've ever had to do. It fucking sucks. I used to be so cold about death. There was a time where I wouldn't speak and I wouldn't shed a tear, but time has softened my heart. You'd expect to cry over a family member or someone in your personal life. I long for the days where I was in the dark about the circumstances of death.
When my granny died, I remember my paw paw telling us what the nurses told him. They said that as she got closer to the end, her lungs turned white and it was only her heart beating. Then everything shut down and she was gone. Back then, I missed her, but hearing the details didn't phase me and that was because I didn't really understand what was going on.
Being a long-term care nurse is pure torture and I honestly can't wait for the day where I no longer have to sit by and watch people die. The older I get, the more vulnerable I get when it comes to someone's death. I fight it, but sometimes it's truly a never ending battle and it gets harder and harder to keep my composure.
For the very first time in my three years of nursing, I felt like I failed. I felt like I was trying to do all that I could do for someone and it wasn't enough. My goal was to keep them as comfortable and as presentable as possible so they could make their departure from this life to the next in their home, surrounded by the people that truly loved and cared about them and I failed. It was like they were ripped from my hands and that truly broke me.
I never want to have to basically pull someone from a bed so they can go off to a place that's incredibly unfamiliar to them. I don't ever want to tell their loved ones that I will do everything in my power to make sure they stay by their side for however long they have left with them and watch that entire plan shatter right before their very eyes. I don't ever want to have to hold a family member and catch their tears while disguising my own pain when I felt absolutely powerless. I felt like I had been shot in the chest.
I won't lie, my history with my suicide attempts came into my mind. By that I mean, when you make that decision, it's the only time where you feel like you have control over anything. Nursing and motherhood have been my healthy alternatives to not feeling powerless. In this situation at work, I kept it together and I felt like I had everything in order and I had total control over what was going on and all of a sudden, when I thought things were on the right track, it came crashing down. Maybe it makes me a control-freak, but I like feeling in control. It's what's kept me from being used and abused by people that could care less. In nursing, it's kept me from being left in the dark. I love every minute of playing a huge role in the care that I give to these people.
Sometimes it takes me back and gives me the feeling that I had during an incredibly intense softball game. Either I hit as home run and felt like I was on top of the world, caught a foul ball, or threw someone out and felt like I was on top of the world or I struck out, missed a ball, or threw the ball over someone's head and fucked the whole game up (yes, I'm rambling about nonsense, but I'm constantly comparing and contrasting things that make me feel good and things that make me feel like shit. Bare with me).
It's sad when someone dies. Everything starts to shut down and they can't talk to you or see your tears. They can't feel you hovering over them and holding their hand. They can't speak up to tell you that everything will be okay and you will learn to live without them because they aren't suffering anymore. But, they can hear you. Hearing is the final sense to go (when my grandfather died, 16 years ago, my mom was able to talk to him on the phone and immediately after hanging up, he died. I didn't need to go to nursing school to learn that. Over the last three years, you wouldn't believe how relieved family members are to learn that). My biggest fear is having one of my residents die alone simply because they can still hear you.
Unfortunately, this time I felt like giving my all just wasn't enough. I've felt like shit ever since I said my final goodbyes yesterday and it's put me in a dark place. I've had so many thoughts running through my head and I'm trying to get a grip on everything. I don't know how to feel because I know that this will happen again. I have my moments where I get shaken up by experiences that are brand new to me. Keep your fingers crossed and pray that I can power through this because there is still a building full of people that need me. I may have hit a bump in this road, but I'm still going to hang on for the rest of the ride.
I'm never sure if people think I'm an angel or a Satanist. I cuss way more than I should (I know I say "go fuck yourself" or "hell if I know" more than you think). I don't know whether I'm coming or going half the time and I can be more evil than you ever would have thought, but I have my days where I feel like a pretty decent nurse.