On why you’re crying

My new job is really hard. I’m a nurse in a nursing home. I take care of 23 residents for eight hours a day, five days a week. I’ve been working for the floor for three weeks and I’ve already watched four people pass on. I don’t know why, I don’t know these people that well, but when I found out about the fourth person that died, I suddenly felt really overwhelmed. Here I am, in a new environment, living this new life, accepting all of this change, and everything at work, all these people’s lives were changing as well.

It’s really comforting to me to know that I was there for some of these people at the end. I was there to rub their backs and hold their hands. But this job is hard. There’s been a lot of death and everyone is stressed out. A lot of the nurses… It feels like a ‘Trust No Bitch’ environment and I’ve never worked at a place where I don’t really feel like I can trust my team.

I came home after my shift last night and I just distinctly felt like coming home and wanting a person who would care if I died to be there and hold me.

This doesn’t feel existential for me, and I know all of those people I took care of that died, it was their time to go. But I can’t put my finger on why I’m crying.


You’re crying because it’s a perfectly normal emotional reaction to all of that brutally real shit you just described.

When you’re on the floor functioning as a nurse, you have to suppress emotions. It’s not just a part of the job. It’s a part of your role. Combine that with the loneliness of being surrounded by those people all day, plus the new environment, and you’re bound to have a good cry when you get home and crash.

You will cry less and less, because you will get used to things. You will find your place. Your role will become a part of your identity, and you won’t have to suppress as much emotion. In the meantime, know that it’s both necessary and healthy to have that emotional release.

You’re fine. This is all just a part of you growing stronger.


9 thoughts on “On why you’re crying

  1. Nicole says:

    I have been a nurse 19 years, working in acute care hospitals for the better part of 25. I’ve worked on the floors, in intensive care, the ER, and now I do a job where I have to make sure it’s safe for patients to be discharged from the hospital, which has been the hardest, most stressful, but also the most rewarding part of my career. I have to get into people’s lives, and the stickiest part, their problems, as well as help them plan for end of life care. I still, after all I’ve seen and all I’ve done, come home and cry at the end of many days. It’s the part of you that cares, and still cares, that makes doing this job the best part. It’s called compassion fatigue and it’s the real part of being on the front lines of healthcare. Learn to express those feelings and process them, and learn to take care of yourself outside of the job the best ways you know how. I have had to, a few times during my career, seek outside counseling to deal with the stresses of doing this job, and my nursing instructors used to tell us, it can be necessary to care for yourself this way with all the stress and trauma you deal with. You will learn to cope and compartmentalize all these emotions with time and experience. Just try and leave all you touch/care for a little better off than you found them (and that speaks more to how you make them feel than actually curing any disease), put your patients first (always, every single time) and if you ever quit caring so much? That’s the time to move on. Hang in there, we need you in this field.

  2. Anna says:

    I’m a medical student, having worked as a nurse. Geriatrics is like the toughest thing ever. Most people leave after a couple of years. I don’t know if you can transfer or become a specialized nurse where you live but if that is an option consider it. You might adapt quickly to the current environment or you might be ready for this in after having worked in better environments, but if your work makes you constantly feel like an emotional wreck (and that’s not even counting the fatigue working in an understaffed nursing home, how do you even wash and change 23 patients a day ? plus the bitchy team!!!), you should consider looking for better options.
    Then again, you will see people die, and hurt, and lose loved ones almost anywhere you go. It’s part of our trade and you have to learn to setup personal boundaries as well as a professional attitude. You still will cry, and you still will stay up at night thinking of some of your patients years after you last see them, and hopefully you will get up in the morning believing you can help, even in an infinitesimal way.
    In fine, the situation is that your patients are people that are suffering (because senescence and disease are universal amongst apes, also the universe is random and cruel) and you are changing their lives for the better by doing what you can within your role as a nurse to relieve that suffering.

  3. Ally says:

    As a new nurse, I needed to read this. Even as a student nurse there’d be instances that I would have to remain firm in the patient’s room, but as soon as I got home I had to cry. It is so difficult to suppress emotions, but I know in all of this that the patient comes first. It’s going to be hard, but thank you so much CT and be strong, OP! When you’re feeling down, know that some nurse somewhere in the world knows how you feel.

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