The Day Daddy Died: The Perspective of a Daughter Who Became a Registered Nurse

It’s hard losing a loved one. It’s harder when the people caring for that loved one lack empathy and compassion. I was once a naive twelve-year-old girl. Now I’m a Registered Nurse who knows better and does better. Nurses General Nursing Article

Updated:   Published

The Day Daddy Died: The Perspective of a Daughter Who Became a Registered Nurse

What started out as a small insect bite, or so we thought, became a diagnosis of leukemia; Prognosis: poor. I was twelve when we started visiting Daddy in the hospital every afternoon after school. The doctors started his chemotherapy immediately, and he was admitted, with no discharge home expected in the foreseeable future. He always tried to keep good spirits for his five little girls, but he seemed sorrowful. His beautiful brown eyes had become weary, his jet-black hair had fallen out, and the small amounts of joy he was able to consume were that of his afternoon visits with his girls. Daddy had been sick for nearly two months.

It was a hot Sunday afternoon, June 3rd, 2001, to be exact. Daddy had slipped into a coma a week before. Earlier that day, the doctor called to say he wouldn't make it much longer. My mom, sisters, and I took the hour-long drive to the hospital to visit him. I was not able to process the fact that this would be the last time I would see the best man I'd ever known. I couldn't understand that his smile, laughter, and warm embrace would become but memories in my mind. How could I live in a world without my Daddy? Losing him would change me. It did.

That sunny afternoon in June felt anything but warm. We arrived at the hospital and went immediately to his room. Daddy was lying there, sleeping peacefully, it appeared. His sister was sitting at his bedside. I remember the hospital room was cold. It smelled of cleaning products. There were machines beeping and cords and wires in every direction. I walked over to Daddy's bed. I hugged him and kissed his cheek. I sang him a song, as I often did when we visited. My Mom, sisters, and aunt held a despondent conversation. Suddenly, the regular beeping of the monitor stopped and turned to a continuous sound with no pause in between. Daddy's heart stopped. What I would later come to understand was asystole on his bedside cardiac monitor.

Several people rushed into the room at once. My sisters and I were screaming. Someone in the room said, "What do you want us to do?” I was confused. I thought they should know what to do. My aunt looked at the doctor and said, "Let him go." I can never describe the pain I felt at that moment. I felt breathless, and there was a deep ache in my chest. I was sobbing hysterically. This must be loss, or grief, or unbearable pain. All the while, it seemed unreal. Was I playing a part in a movie? I didn't like Daddy's part, if so. My thoughts were interrupted when a nurse placed her hand on my shoulder and said, "Don't cry. This happens every day.”

Shortly after, we left. The ride home was quiet, with only soft sobs heard. I lay in the backseat, staring at the sky. The ache still in my chest, I wondered if Daddy had met Jesus yet. I hoped he had. While I'd like to assume the nurse was trying to comfort me, as I could never imagine another person being so very cruel, it was not comforting, even in the slightest. It simply was not true. Sure, death happens every day. My Daddy dying does not! I remember, even as a young girl, nurses being spoken of with such high regard. Nursing as a profession is described with words such as trust, honesty, compassion, and empathy.  Nursing is warmth. The nurse that said I shouldn't cry when my Daddy died showed me nothing but. I would be amiss to say I don't think of her often. I would admit I feel indebted to her in some way, as I am a better nurse because of her. She showed me the kind of nurse I never wanted to be.

I tell you this story, not for pity, and not for praise. I tell you this story to raise awareness. "As a nurse, one has the honor of taking care of the most vulnerable populations. This includes patients and loved ones who experience loss" (Oates & Maani-Fogelman, 2022). From my own personal experience as a loved one who has experienced loss, and a professional bedside registered nurse, I am confident in saying: our words, actions, and behaviors matter. As a reminder, nursing is and has been the most trusted profession for years running.

"Nurses have topped Gallup's Honesty and Ethics list in all but one year since they were added in 1999. The exception is 2001" (Saad, 2020). Is it nothing more than a coincidence that this is the year my Daddy died? Absolutely. However, it makes me wonder, what was different that year? Honesty and ethics are indeed different from compassion or empathy, but these traits, as a whole, make the good nurse. Be the good nurse! The nurse that comforts the crying daughter or holds the dying father's hand. If it were easy, everyone would do it.  They don't. The rest become Dental Hygienists: similar pay scale and not nearly as much talking.

In closing, I hope that all of you are so blessed to know a man like my Daddy. I owe all that I am to him. He taught me to be trustworthy, honest, compassionate, and empathetic. He is the reason I AM A NURSE! 


Oates, J. R., & Manni-Fogleman, P. A. (2022, September 18). Nursing Grief and Loss. National Library of Medicine.

Saad, L. (2020, December 22). U.S. Ethics Ratings Rise for Medical Workers and Teachers. GALLUP.

Hi, I’m Shauna. I’ve been a RN for seven years. I love it! I love writing almost as much. For me, sitting down at the end of a long twelve-hour shift and journaling is EVERYTHING! It’s the way I care for myself after caring for patients all day. All of my worries fall onto a page and I’m at peace.

1 Article   2 Posts

Share this post

Share on other sites

Tweety, BSN, RN

33,538 Posts

Specializes in Med-Surg, Trauma, Ortho, Neuro, Cardiac.

My sincere condolences on your loss so long ago that still echoes fresh in your mind and soul.  Reading I thought "what a horrible thing for that nurse to say".  Not supportive at all.  

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X