The Fifth Stage of Grief

I saw my psychologist yesterday and she’s super impressed with how I’m going. We talked about how I’m using the Stop! technique and also about how I looked after real live patients on Sunday (including a pregnant woman). We talked about how I managed my colleague telling me to “just think positively” etc etc because you know, “you have a healthy baby” etc.


Smile! You have a healthy baby!

Basically she’s really happy with how I’m traveling. So much so, that I canceled my appointment in two weeks and booked it for four weeks instead.

One thing that I have noticed is how I’m able to separate myself from work. It’s not withdrawing from my friends or family or anything bad, it’s a coping mechanism that all people working in emergency or care services such as nurses, doctors, police officers, ambulance officers and firefighters develop as a defence mechanism so they can finish work, go home and sleep at night. If we didn’t separate ourselves from the often tragic and distressed stories of our patients/clients, then we’d simply be unable to function ourselves.

Certainly some people touch us. I can still see the face of the man that I spent 35 minutes doing fruitless defibrillation and then CPR on, whose wife and children arrived shortly after we’d declared him deceased. I cried about him afterward. I grieved the life that he lost because I was unable to send him home to his family.

My grief response to him though, was very different to my grief response to what happened to me. Ultimately I was able to move on because I could rationalise his medical history. I was able to immediately process that even though he died, I and my colleagues did everything we could to fight it and it wasn’t enough. I could separate myself by recognising that his death was sad, but that people do die young and that’s just the way life is.

With my own trauma, I wasn’t able to process that immediately. I didn’t have anyone else to talk to about it. No colleagues in the tea room to have a cuppa with and go over the events. No ability to rationalise with facts and knowledge.


I recall being in my hospital bed in the night when my daughter was a day or two old and I was on my mobile phone writing out my birth story to post on a popular Australian parenting website. The stories I had read on that website went into detail how the children were born. As I was typing the letters into words, I found myself starting to breathe quickly, my mouth going dry. I couldn’t say the words because they were just too hard to get out. If I wrote them or said them, then what I was writing, really happened. Surely something that bad didn’t happen! No, it must not have, because I’m ok, my baby is ok. We’re healthy. Surely if that had happened, both of us. One of us. We’d be sick! But we’re not and I’m grateful to have a baby who is ok. She’s healthy any that’s all that matters.

So my sanitised version went online. The responses I got were wonderful. So many people from the community of parents I had been apart of during my pregnancy were genuinely happy that my girl was finally born and that we had picked a beautiful name and that we were both healthy.


Maybe if I had recognised the problem then and dealt with it immediately, I would not have had the grief that I’ve had?

Obviously I can’t change the past. I can’t go back to that week and deal with it, I can only acknowledge and accept that it happened and then move on. It’s taken me two years and nearly seven months, but I have accepted that it happened.

I’m so ready to move on. I’m so ready to have it all be gone.

The tools my dear psychologists have taught me, are absolutely invaluable. I asked my Magic Brain Lady yesterday about my fear. I’m feeling so good, but I’m constantly scared, terrified even. I’m so worried that this spell might break and I’ll end up right down at the very rock bottom again. I feel like I’m at about ninety percent well. I’m so conditioned to think that the ten percent of me that’s not well, will ruin me. Surely that life playing a cruel prank on me, because I’m one big shit magnet who doesn’t get ahead ever.


Basically the outcome of that conversation is that now I can see the warning signs. I have the tools to cope with the shit or at least delegate the coping out to someone who can help. My defence mechanism means that I won’t let myself get that bad ever again because I can remember how bad it really was.

I did do something major today. I went back to the hospital. Yep the hospital. I vowed never to return after collecting my medical records, but life works in mysterious ways and I ended up needing to be there for a non-urgent matter. I did avoid people. I recognised faces, they probably hate me for it, but I ducked into corridors to avoid the inevitable “how have you been?”

I sat outside under the awning at the cafe, listening to the rain drizzle softly from the sky, while I watched people walk by with IV pumps and wheelchairs. Pregnant women. People with flowers. Elderly couples with rollator frames. Men in surgical scrubs. Nurse managers with pagers and clipboards. Doctors with stethoscopes and hot coffee in cardboard cups. Life was continuing on without a worry in the world. Even in this situation, I could still appreciate the world around me.

My husband, who I don’t blog about too often because I’m not sure how he feels about being the subject of my internet discussions, said something to me the other night. An off the cuff comment that I’m sure he’s forgotten about, but it has stayed with me. He said “Don’t be bitter because those people deserve good healthcare”. I was having one of my countless moments where I found myself spiraling down into despair. We were stopped at the traffic lights outside that hospital and I felt so immediately sad and said “I wish it would fall down”. It angers me that it’s me who went there to have a baby and left with the added bonus of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Post Natal Depression and Anxiety. I’m bitter that people I know and care for have walked away with nothing but a clean bill of health and good memories of kind nurses and doctors.


His words. They’re true. I say that I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, yet in a way, I wish it hadn’t happened to me. That it was someone else. I’ve spent the last two years (at least) directing so much anger and hatred into my circumstance that I clouded my vision completely. This isn’t me being a martyr by any means, but this happening to me, means that two friends who have also had babies safely there, came home ok. It means that another friend who has had major surgery there, came home ok. It means that my own husband who has also been a patient there, came home ok. I would be horrified if any of my loved ones had this happen to them.

So I accept that by happening to me, it hasn’t happened to the people I love. I accept that doctors and nurses do stuff up. I’m not the first patient and I won’t be the last. I accept that it happened because I do not have a time machine to go back and change the past. I’m not at the stage of forgiveness. I’m not sure I’ll ever be there. One shift at work for them, has essentially put my life and my families’ life on hold for two years.


I feel weightless. PTSD happened to me. PTSD does not define me.


My goodness, I had no idea I had all of this in me today. If you’re still here, thanks. Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, I hope you’re well.

Xx Clair

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Still Fighting It

I will remember the good things that happened today and I will fight with every cell in my body The Beast who is lurking, nipping at my heels.

I worked today. In Emergency. With real, live patients. Patients who needed medical procedures. One even needed a catheter (no, I didn’t do it because I work with seriously wonderful people). I was fighting from the start of my shift.

it’s been so long since I nursed because I haven’t been well…

My team leader (also a trusted friend) learned for the first time why I stopped nursing. (Stop. Hammertime). She was cool. Didn’t dwell on it, just was like “Shit that’s awful, yeah we’ll do your catheters today”. Sweet.

Patient with chest pain. Patient with an infection. Bam! Catheter time. So while that was happening, I admitted the patient with the allergy. Team nursing worked well. Even the pregnant lady was all good for me.

What wasn’t cool was the colleague who came on shift late in the day (to carry on the next shift) who took it upon herself to tell me that I just needed to “stop thinking about it and be grateful you have a baby who’s healthy”.

Oh my god. I cannot stop recalling what she said next. Because “yeah you had an awful time didn’t you? But…

“You just need to think more positively because your baby is alive and healthy and you’re healthy and you just need to get over it.

Blame the victim. Bravo.

So I immediately reached out to Twitter because ANGRY. Really fucking angry. And my goodness you guys. I love you all, so so much.


Honestly. You all are simply the best. I feel like you all spread your wings to protect me like a mother duck does to shelter her ducklings from the rain.

I’m doing exactly what my Psychologist has advised me. Look for the positive. Which of course we all know is very different to just thinking positively. Remember the burned out forest with the new growth? That’s what I’m channelling this afternoon because it’s a really shitty thing to be blamed when it wasn’t my fault. So I’m cheering that I had a good day. I had not put a cannula in a patient in well over a year. Well, I did it three times today and did not miss once. Which I absolutely thought I would. I also only had to look at MIMS once to remind myself about a medication because I wasn’t certain that I had remembered correctly it’s generic name (turned out I had and I need to trust myself). Even cleaning up the confused old lady who had gotten poo everywhere wasn’t bad. She just needed some compassion because I am pretty sure that if she had been aware of what happened she would have been distraught. As anyone would.

I spent all day literally on edge looking for triggers to avoid and protecting myself. Ultimately it wasn’t my patients who let me down, but I’m totally exhausted from fighting all day against my brain. I’m now having a well deserved glass of wine while I blog about it all. Looking forward to my day off tomorrow. Missy and I will paint our nails and go for a good walk. Maybe to the park. We might go and see if there are any ducks in the pond.

Either way tomorrow is going to be all about just enjoying myself. Then Tuesday I’m back to see my Magic Brain Lady and talk about today. Sort it out in my head, grow stronger. Learn from it.

I can see it coming from the edge of the room
Creeping in the streetlight
Holding my hand in the pale gloom
Can you see it coming now?

Thank you xx just reading this helps