Losing My Job and Career Due To Chronic Illness: Dealing With Grief

How Grieving For The Loss Of My Career Started A New Career In Writing.

The time after my spine injury was very challenging. It took over 6 weeks to initially return to my job as a Health Care Assistant on a busy Medical Ward. However, I had lied at the Occupational Health Appointment. I told the doctor that my back and pain were much better than they actually were. I just wanted to get back to work and normality.

Within a week of returning (which was in early December) I came down with the Noro Virus, which was doing the rounds on the wards. During the following Spring I had tonsillitis, needing more time off. Then lastly, the final straw in my nursing career was my appointment with the Occupational Health Doctor at Exeter hospital to start Nurse Training. My goal was to become a Macmillan Nurse. My Dad’s Mum died of cancer when I was seven. I had an idealistic view that no one should be in pain! I wanted to have more input into helping people transition with cancer. Ironically, 16 years after my spine injury with numerous chronic conditions, I realise how living a pain-free life is unrealistic. Part of the physical assessment at the appointment was checking my back to see if there was any nerve root involvement. One of the nurses I worked with told me to put up with the pain this would cause, as it would be worth it to get onto the course. Of course I did this, it had been an ambition since I was five to become a nurse. Anyway, as I lay on the couch, she lifted each leg up as high as it could go to see if it hurt. It did, but I allowed her to keep lifting my leg. My sights were firmly on the long-term plan, not the short-term pain (which is what I thought it would be).

Chris and Ben had come down with me for the appointment. We stopped on the way home for a picnic in a forest and to stretch our legs. This is when the pain started. My back became more stiff. Within the following week I had horrendous nerve pain going down my right leg. It was very intense, requiring to stop what I was doing until the pain passed. One of the G.P’s from the surgery I attended at the time referred me to the orthopaedics.

Life changed a lot from then, as I was never well enough to return to my nursing job. By the November I had an appointment with my Nursing Sister and a Personnel Officer. I ended my contract by mutual consent. It was heart breaking. I am in tears now as I write this. My dream to be a Macmillan Nurse burst as quickly as a pin popping a balloon.

I absolutely loved my job with all my heart. I was always the first one out of the office in the morning to get to the patients and start taking observations. I enjoyed helping people recover from an illness, or just being there with someone through their final moments. That was who I was, that was what I based my identity on, as well as being a wife and a mother. I was offered work elsewhere in the hospital, but each and every day I would have had to go through the same heart-break of not being able to do hands on care. I would not have been able to go through that. As it was, I would be in tears after every appointment I had at the hospital, for a long time afterwards.

Eventually I began writing poetry. This was a great way to process what I was going through. I would generally write when I was frustrated with a situation, or angry/annoyed over something someone said. I don’t really argue with people. I don’t become defensive or say things back in a counterargument. I keep quiet and slowly process what was said and how I felt. I firmly believe that we can’t change anyone. The only thing we have the power to do is change how we feel about a person, a situation or ourselves.

I feel the journey with the poetry allowed me to process my grief for the loss of my career. I slowly changed from being a negative person to always being able to see a positive in any challenge or situation.

Leave a Reply