I usually love the fall, anticipation of cooler days, the beauty of the leaves changing, back to school excitement and all that comes with a new season. That was true until the fall of 2009. There are events that mark before and after periods when life is irrevocably changed. In September of 2009, that moment came via the most unwanted phone call. My father had experienced, what the doctor called a “life-ending event”.
The days leading up to and following his death are a blur, the impact remains 8 years later. I took the allotted bereavement days, even though I was asked to return to school earlier because after all, it was the beginning of a new school year and there was much to be done. 5 days of bereavement for a traumatic loss is barely enough time to understand that the loved one is gone, let alone be able to function effectively. But soldier on I did, don’t we all do that as nurses?
When I returned, somewhat in a zombie state, I went through the motions of my tasks but felt disconnected from myself and my work. One student’s own traumatic event jarred me back into being in the present moment. My student, all of 12 years old shared a bed with her mom who loved her beyond measure, but who could not shake the grip of drug addiction enough to save herself. And so, my student woke one October morning, but could not wake her mother. Imagine, or try to imagine the trauma this young girl experienced, the chain of events that ensued and how managed to find herself back in school the very next day.
Where does the healing happen at school? For Relentless School Nurses, it happens in our offices. My student and I shared our grief journeys that school year. I jumped head first into researching grief for both of us, but I didn’t realize how this was also helping me until years later. Sometimes we spoke, sometimes we drew, sometimes we sat in silence. Tissues were as abundant as the tears that flowed, but we made it through that awful school year. You don’t get over a loss, you just get used to a new, but unwelcome reality.
The beauty of School Nursing is that we have the luxury of time and space with students and families. With that luxury of time, comes the responsibility to be present when tragedy strikes. In this case, it was a mutual sharing of one of life’s hardest transitions, losing a loved one. It is my hope that this blogs sparks conversation and even debate about what it takes to be a Relentless School Nurse. I look forward to connecting and hearing your stories so that we learn from each other.