We are all different, and I can definitely see that from the responses of those who lost a parent during nursing school. I was just beginning my fourth semester (out of six) when my mother's health took a turn for the worse. Her health had been teetering in the balances from just about the time I started nursing school 1 1/2 years prior, and there was always this waiting, and wondering... What would I do when I got that call, and knew she was finally losing the battle with breast cancer, I mean, really losing the battle. That call finally came when I was about 3 weeks into my 4th semester. At first I thought I could be strong and both grieve and continue on in school. I packed my books and homework and drove down to be with her on weekends (she lived 4 hrs away), or that was my plan anyway. I had just completed my hospice rotation (of all rotations!) and I was working on the corresponding paper after having spent all day with Mom at the hospital. I remember sitting there, working on the paper, thinking how ironic it was that I was writing about the grieving process as outsider looking in, when really, I was an insider! My classmates were so great, they wanted me to continue on with them so much, they wanted to support me, whatever I needed, to make it through, but ultimately I made the choice to drop out of school and go be with my Mom during her last weeks of life, a decision I will never regret. She did not go easy, and I was there when she took her last breath. I would like to say she went in peace, but it didn't exactly work out that way.
Within the weeks after her death I had many dreams about her, all of them full of strife and suffering. The dream that I really remember was one particular dream, where I was a nurse and she was my patient. She was in her hospital bed hooked up to all kinds of drips, and O2, and beeping machines. I was in my nursing uniform running around the room, trying to provide every comfort measure I could think of, everything I had been learning in nursing school: positioning, analgesics, O2, antiemetics, foley catheter, bowel protocol, and when I ran out of assessments and interventions, there was just one last thing left for me to do, and that was to get into bed with her and hold her. At that moment, I heard my mother whisper in my ear, "Jennifer, I just hurt so much..." It woke me up, and I as in tears. Her voice was so real, and I could literally feel her breath touching my face.
I'm not sure why I'm sharing all of this... maybe it is to let you know that it is not only okay to grieve, but it is important. We all grieve in our own way. If that means taking a break from school, whether that is to go to part time, or just take some time off all together, then so be it. Take the time that you need to go THROUGH this process, not around it. I always tell myself that life is a journey, not a destination. Don't be in such a hurry to arrive, because as long as you keep moving in one particular direction, you will get there. In the meantime, live in the moment and enjoy (as much as possible) the ride. Grieve for your mother, and take time for yourself. Get counseling if you need it, but definitely give yourself permission and space to grieve. I guarantee you will be a better nurse in the long run because of it.
BTW, I am back in the nursing program, my time off delayed me 1 1/2 years because I couldn't get right back into the program. But not for one second do I regret my decision. I know my mother would have understood if I had stayed in the program through her dying process, in fact, it is what she wanted. But I didn't take the time off for her, I did it for me. And as long as you never stop moving toward your goal, I guarantee, your mother will be very proud of you, whether it is accomplished in 2 years or 4 years, or even longer.