In The Aftermath of Tragedy

The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut is weighing heavily on many hearts and minds this week, and with the holidays upon us, mixed emotions are common. And as nurses, our patients and loved ones may need even more from us than usual.

During the holiday season, emotions can run high, even as we are sometimes “running on empty” as we strive to balance work, home, and preparations for important and significant celebrations with family, friends and colleagues. Self care during this time is important, as I mentioned in last week’s post.

But with the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and the emotions of grief and horror widespread amongst many Americans (and those abroad, as well), the emotional “tone” of this holiday season has been transformed, and we are all impacted by the change.

For us nurses, we may find it more difficult than usual to stay focused as we continue to absorb and digest the ramifications of what happened in Connecticut last week. Even as we do our holiday shopping, prepare for travel or make decisions about our holiday plans, we also have the burden and pain of this event in the back of our minds. And while the gravity of the situation can make the holidays seem superficial and meaningless, the love and cheer inherent in the holiday can also help to assuage some of the pain, grief and disorientation that we feel.

Meanwhile, if we’re parents, our children may need more love and attention from us than they normally do, and we may feel the strain of even more demands at home amidst the usual holiday season stress at work.

So, nurses, it’s a time when we need to pay extra special attention to our own needs and feelings, even if we feel pulled in multiple directions. The kids may need you, your shopping may not be done, your Christmas plans may require finalizing, and you may even be packing for a trip. Still, if you take even a moment to pause, check in with yourself, and give yourself even a little of what you need, the benefits of such attention to self care will certainly pay dividends.

As our nation reels in grief and shock, we simultaneously plan for the holidays and carry on with our lives. And while the cognitive dissonance created by the contrast between such suffering and the celebration of the holidays may leave us feeling conflicted at times, we can channel the positive nature of the holidays as a means to bring more joy and well-being into our lives, and the lives of those around us.

Be extra aware of how you feel right now. Keep a close eye on your children, family, friends and colleagues. Understand that the stresses of the holiday season are currently being exacerbated and altered by the tragedy that unfolded in Connecticut last week. Be gentle with yourself and others, and seek support when you need it.

These are difficult and challenging times, and when you walk with gentleness and compassion for yourself and others, the road will be easier for all concerned.

About Keith

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Keith Carlson is a holistic career coach for nurses, award-winning nurse blogger, writer, podcaster, speaker, author, and popular career columnist.

With two decades of nursing experience, Keith deeply understands the issues faced by 21st-century nurses. Keith’s two podcasts, RNFM Radio and The Nurse Keith Show, offer inspiration and practical support to nurses seeking to create meaningful, satisfying lives and careers.

Keith’s message of savvy career management and professional satisfaction reaches tens of thousands of nurses worldwide. Keith can be found on many social media platforms, as well as at