I take such pride in my career. Child Life Specialist’s have a very important role in a Children’s Hospital, at least to the people who it matters the very most to, the children. It is my job to help kids through their hospitalization in the most positive way possible. The core of my approach for this is play. It sounds pretty easy to most. I often hear people say, “I wish I had your job” or “it must be nice to play all day”, etc. but making sure children have the opportunity to learn and express their emotions through play is not the only part of my job. I often break bad news to kids. I teach them about procedures they will go through and help them cope as best as I can during those procedures that are often very scary and painful to their little minds and bodies.
I witness and wipe a lot of big tears from little kids each day. I hold hands with them in the most fearful moments they know so far in their little world. I try to support worried parents. One the worst days, I help families say goodbye to their child, their siblings & loved ones as I help them create memories and keepsakes that I hope will help offer even an ounce of healing one day after they walk out the doors of the hospital without their child. Many kids are so loved, but some, well-deserve so much more than they get. Some kids don’t get visitors for days, sometimes weeks. Some kids don’t go home with their parents because their parents are the reason they are in the hospital in the first place. Tragic accidents leave children and families forever changed. It’s an environment that takes a lot out of you and can wear heavy on any heart.
Grief doesn’t help. Especially when you’re grieving your child, who you would have given every star in the sky to.
In the field of helping others, self-care is so often preached yet seldom practiced. There is little time for it to be honest. It’s been almost 8 months since my heart shattered and 8 months that I’ve continued to carry burden after burden of others on top of my own. Truth…I love to give love. I love to help. It’s who I am. But I’m slowing down lately. My head hits the pillow each night and I cry big messy tears and loud sobs until I tire myself to sleep. My husband gently rubs his fingers up and down my back in effort to relax my body as I weep. I am running low on my “giving tank” and my heart needs a break. It needs time to focus on its own pain and burdens, or healing this shattered heart might as well be a far fetched dream.
I made one of the hardest decisions of my life last week. I decided to step back from my full time job for the sake of self-preservation. I can’t be the very best Child Life Specialist if I can’t give 100% of myself to these kids each day. They deserve 100%. So as I take time to heal, I will work a few shifts a month to keep my sanity. I truthfully could never let go all of the way. I have other things planned to fill my time and heart because I also know sitting home and sulking is not healthy either. It brings me to tears every time I talk about leaving my full time position. Sometimes I feel like I am being robbed of all of the things I’ve wanted and worked so very hard for. Even though I feel at peace with my decision, it’s still really hard to let go.
As I write letters to some of my patients who I’ve built such strong relationships with, tears fall as I know I will miss them. But they will be okay without me. And I will have to be okay without them for a little while.
As for my colleagues…I have the very best ones in the world. They have cried with me, prayed with me, laughed with me, taken extra work to lighten my load and been with me every.single.step of this journey so far.
But there are places in healing that must be done alone. Between me and God. And I need more time for that.
“In health care, self care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.”
It’s not a decision I wanted to make, but it’s one that I needed to.
“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people…We want each of you to show this diligence to the very end, in order to make your own hope sure”. Hebrews 6:10-11