Today was one of those days at the hospital that involved a bit of gear switching. I celebrated the gift of life offered by organ donation at a lunch and learn (the yummy catered Italian food didn’t hurt the celebration), and reconnected with the family of a former patient. I sat with a sister saying goodbye to her dying brother. I encouraged and prayed with an ICU patient who was confused about where she was, what had happened, and how she got there, and in the process relieved a nurse at her wit’s end. Finally, I participated in a meeting that involved some long-overdue honest conversation.
As I listened to the back and forth of the discussion, I was reminded how easy it was for healthcare professionals (maybe all care providers) to forget about acknowledging their own losses and giving voice to the feelings associated with them. Maybe it’s because the losses are not personal. Maybe it’s because we feel giving voice to our emotions makes us less professional. Maybe it’s because we, as care providers, forget we need care, too. Maybe it’s because some of our losses are the results of great progress and we feel we should focus on the promises of the future and keep moving forward into it.
The truth is, great progress sometimes means that we’re still leaving something behind… something that we gave birth to, invested in, helped grow… and we understood ourselves to be in a particular relationship to that something, a relationship that we’d grown accustomed to and a way of relating that was familiar and comfortable. When that changes, even when it means that our dream that once seemed hazy comes into clearer focus and becomes a reality, we still lose something. And there is bound to be grief.
Sometimes we grieve the great moves forward… the realization of our dreams. We grieve, not because we are sad that our dreams have come true, but because we have left something behind in the process. We grieve, because we find that we cannot welcome the great progress and fully move into the future, no matter how long we hoped and worked for it, unless we take time to honor our loss, to name that reality and to grieve it. One chapter closes. Another one opens. And there is bound to be grief.