“Our job as nurses is to cushion the sorrow and celebrate the job everyday, while we are ‘just doing our jobs'” – Christine Belle

Dear family member,

Let me start by saying the words that you’re about to hear, again, and again:

I’m sorry for your loss.

It is a heartfelt message, but with repetition it may just become weightless to you. You may hear it so much that you stop taking notice of the empathy that comes with it. But please, never forget that when we say it to you, the family and friends of the patients we care for, we truly, deeply mean it.

We are the people who have to stand by and watch as your loved one slips away. We are the ones who are all-too-familiar with such grim circumstances. We understand that the way of the world seems cruel and unusual sometimes, and there are days when loss seems to be everywhere. The most difficult part for us is that we can’t always stop the bad things from happening. We can’t save everyone. We cannot cure all.

You see, we want to be superheros. We want to undo all the bad and fill the world with good. But, sadly, within the realms of our profession, there is only so much we can do to help. If only the necessary wonder-drug existed…

Everyday we walk into work and we hope for the best. No matter what situation we face, we want our patients to be okay. We want to walk out at the end of a long shift feeling like we did something good today, that in some way we bettered someone’s life — be it the recovering patient or the family who needed support at the hardest of times.

We are always around… perhaps in the background or perhaps right there beside you. No matter what, we see it all. We watch you grieve in many ways: anger, sadness, shock… And believe me, at times, we want to cry too. But we’re there in a professional space. It’s up to us to hold it together when you’re feeling like you’re about to fall apart. And although we may seem just fine, it is a struggle for us too… but in a different kind of way.

We feel guilty knowing that, while the world you knew is now completely altered, we get to walk out those doors at the change of shift, having life return to normal. We too feel sadness and loss because today our patient wasn’t okay. And now there’s one less soul in the world to prove it.

As a nurse, there’s a fine line between emotional involvement and disconnection, and sometimes it’s too fine to see. We spend countless hours learning and bettering ourselves as health practitioners, and as people, in order to help others. But at the end of the day, no matter what clinical skills we have, and no matter how experienced we are, we do it all because we care.

Let this be your reminder that you are never alone in this situation you find yourself in. We cannot live your pain, but we can do all that is within our power to support you through it.

Yours truly,

Your Critical Care Nurse


The inspiration behind this open letter was my first experience in losing a patient. I wrote this post after working through the toughest and most emotionally-challenging 8 hours of my working life. In studying to be a Registered Nurse, I never realized just how much nurses deal with every day — physically, spiritually, and emotionally.  I have the utmost admiration for each and every one of my colleagues and for every other nurse out there. It is the epitome of hard work.

Leave a Reply