Dear Nurses: Please Forgive Me

A letter of reflection, a plea for forgiveness, a note of encouragement for ED, ICU, and Floor Nurses, who work so hard with sometimes so little, understand where the "family members from hell" are coming from. A gentle nudge to remind that the person lying in that bed belongs to the heart of those around them. Ultimately, this is a note of deep, deep gratitude. I could never do what you do and I am so very thankful that you chose your current role. You are unique, powerful, and so important. Kindly remember. At the end of the day--remember. Nurses General Nursing Article


Dear Nurses: Please Forgive Me

Dear floor, ED and ICU nurses,

Please forgive me.

I know he's dying. I get it. I do. We were told five years. Five years on an outlier and he would be gone. We were told transplant was an option but with the dismal survival rates, we opted for rehab. He is now eight years post diagnosis.

We know we are lucky have had him this long. It doesn't make this any easier. Please don't say it like it's a mantra of comfort. For reasons I don't know or even fully understand, it only makes the sting more sharp.

We see it, you know. The mental status changes. The lack of control. The shuffling gate. The use of accessory muscles.

We see it.

And we know exactly what it means.

When he can't remove his bipap to eat, we know. When he can't lower the head of his bed past thirty degrees, we know. When he can't talk, we know.

We know.

Forgive me, please, my many sins. Forgive me the overbearing stare and raised eyebrow. Forgive me for repositioning him and demanding another pillow for under his heels. I'm helpless, you see, to stop the very shadow that will claim him and I have nothing else to cling to. I have nothing else but what now feel as tedious, miniscule scraps of knowledge that amount to nothing. No cure. No hope. I'm lost.

I'm lost.

You must understand that when I nearly demand to read the orders or see the chart, when I loom over your shoulder, it is not that I don't trust is that I don't trust myself. I don't trust myself to be cope, to make all the right choices, to advocate, to deal with the loss and reconcile the feelings of guilt, of doubt, and pain.

I beg you to understand that I'm scared to death and helpless and a control freak and for once I can't make it better. Understand that I glare instead of cry, laugh instead of scream, and go silent when angry. It's dysfunctional, but it's my way.

And I don't want to be up later at night, pacing a hole in my carpeting, consumed by nausea and a feeling of coulda-woulda-shoulda.

So when you see me wandering the halls, wringing my hands, biting my lip and growling under my breath, please don't be afraid to offer a kind word. It is what I need to hear. Even if I do not acknowledge that I heard it at all. Trust me, it got through. And I will remember.

You must understand that this man is precious to me--that I want to guard him the way he guarded me from myself. That when I call every two hours to demand a neuro status check it is because I am not there and I am struggling to convince myself that I really do need to sleep even after being up for nearly thirty six straight hours and you are my eyes and ears and everything else.

Please see what that cranky, demanding creature is to me. He wasn't always this way--a brain sitting in an acid bath is a terrible thing. I can't control what's happening to his body but I can control the flavor of his Jell-O and so, you know what? If that means raising holy hell with Dietary so I can get red Jell-O for him, then I will. Because it's all I have.

Be genuine with us. We can handle it.

Know that he is the first man, since my grandfather, who treated me with kindness, and god help me, love, even though I was a crazed woman-child dwelling in a familial household, riddled with hormones and a gloomy past, laden with baggage, sociopathic tendencies and unable to form any sort of bond and yet he never left. I lived years without that bond. Years without feeling the need for the guidance and protection only a father could give. Some part of me missing that bond and loathing "daddy's girls" everywhere. But he's trying to leave me now...I survived nearly a lifetime without him and suddenly I 'm not ready.

I'm not ready.

I'm not ready.

Know that I never encourage him to use me as some kind of threat...some unholy boogie man that will get you if you don't help him right this very second. Because, "my daughter is a trauma nurse and she will know what you haven't done right." Know that when I come in and acknowledge that, ::sigh:: yes, I am a nurse and then talk a little shop with you, I am not trying to be in your business but show you that I understand what you are trying to accomplish and understand what you are dealing with on a day to day basis.

I am nothing without you and neither is he.

But he is my dad.

Please understand.

CheesePotato: Noun. Constantly teaching. Forever learning. Overtired, dark humored, over caffeinated, occasionally sulking, chronically petulant. Delightfully unbalanced adrenaline junkie with a penchant for good wine. Always got your back.

10 Articles   254 Posts

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TheCommuter, BSN, RN

176 Articles; 27,610 Posts

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych.

Thank you for another masterfully-written article, CheesePotato! :kiss:

Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

(((((CheesePotato))))) Oh, my God, your pain is palpable even through the computer screen. I am so, so sorry for what you're going through, and have no words to express it.

This post should be required reading for every nurse and nurse-to-be across this land. Another tour-de-force, straight from the heart and soul of a magnificent nurse and human being. I am in awe of your talent. I'm just sad you're having to deal with this loss, and am sending you good thoughts and prayers for continuing strength. :(

CheesePotato, BSN, RN

10 Articles; 254 Posts

Specializes in Sleep medicine,Floor nursing, OR, Trauma.

Thank you for your kind words and prayers.



tnbutterfly - Mary, BSN

91 Articles; 5,918 Posts

Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

Wonderfully written...... from the heart.


143 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology.

Wow, you read my mind. Almost. I just spent 4 days at the bedside of a dying Uncle - he is the last of my Dad's siblings, the end of a generation. I want so badly to fix things, to make it right. To be able to send him home to the farm once again. And I can't. All my best nursing skills, and I can't. I lost my Dad when I was 16, and he is the last link. I am not ready. I feel for the student nurses who were looking after him this weekend, especially when he didn't want me to leave the room as they did that dressing or catheter. But I thank them for letting me stand there and hold his hand and for answering all my questions.

Thank you for putting into words what we feel at such a time. Thank you for sharing with us.


1 Article; 200 Posts

Outstanding translation of emotion into words.

Take care,



127 Posts

Specializes in LTC, Rehab.

tears * tears * .... it's so hard to lose our "rock" ... stay strong .... and btw, so beautifully written: thank you so much for sharing ***

Esme12, ASN, BSN, RN

1 Article; 20,908 Posts

Specializes in Critical Care, ED, Cath lab, CTPAC,Trauma.

I lost mu dad in March of 2009. I had the best dad that ever lived (to me at least). He was my protector my champion, my hero. He was my rock my best friend. Whenever I fell he picked me up. He allowed me to make my mistakes and picked me up later when I failed......he was the voice of calm amongst the hurricane of life.

I wish those nurses could read this now and try to understand my fear. As I watched him slip through my fingers, I became angry that, after snatching so many strangers from the jaws of death......... why I couldn't do for the most important in the world.....why SOMEONE couldn't do it for me.

I am amongst the fortunate few. I won the parental lottery.....and I miss him so much it hurts. When he coded I had NEVER know such pain and I begged and bargained with God for just one more day. There were so many days I thought I would never survive the sadness........then there were days that were not so bad. Now, even though it hurts everyday I can take the time and find those joyful memories to help me through my day.

I can't say that the pain will ever go away, as I sit here with tears pouring down my cheeks, but it does get better. It will never go away but the pain doesn't hurt as much as it did that day.

I feel your's palpable. To nurses everywhere when you see that family member out to ruin your day....remember they are hurt and frightened and are losing their way....just a little girl so sad that her Daddy can't stay. Be patient. Be kind.

CP ((BIG HUGS)) are on their way.


1,082 Posts

Specializes in ICU.

Beautiful. I am so sorry for what you're going through. I try to remember this on a daily basis, the pain that my patients' family members are going through. I try to make time for them, even when I don't have time for myself. Stay strong, CP.

CheesePotato, BSN, RN

10 Articles; 254 Posts

Specializes in Sleep medicine,Floor nursing, OR, Trauma.

Esme, your words left me breathless and humbled. My deepest condolences on your loss.To the other magnificent creatures with sweet words, thank you. And thank you for listening.~~CP~~Sent from the devil's plaything, aka, my smartphone; ergo, formatting = crap.


30 Posts

Well said, really enjoyed reading your article!

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