Nursing is a great career and I love what I do. In my thirty years in this profession, I’ve worked in the emergency room, case management, and palliative care nursing. The latter is where I found my passion; what I was born to do.
I know it may seem a bit peculiar so some people that I love working with the terminally ill, but unless you’ve worked in palliative care you can never know how amazing many of these people are. I’ve learned so much from working with them.
You’d think that the dying would have a horrible outlook on life and while sometimes this is true, the majority of the time, they’re the most wonderful, upbeat, enthusiastic and happy people in the world and I know why. They have so much wisdom about the meaning of life and thankfully it’s contagious.
Here are some of the things I learned from them:
1. Stop worrying, because you only die once. If you worry about every little thing that is happening to you it’s gonna be a rough ride through life. Learn to relax and not think about everything that could go wrong.
Take one day at a time, because that’s all we really have. We don’t have yesterday and worrying about the past and things we can’t change does us no good. Neither does stressing about the future. How many times have you worried about an upcoming event? Stressing your body and mind to the max? In the end, it’s never as bad as you thought it would be.
Make today great! Do the things that make you happy today. Tomorrow you could get hit by a truck. If you try this you’ll be amazed at how well it works.
2. Take time to smell the coffee. Anyone will tell you that the way to beat stress is to live in the moment. Stress adds years to your life and the way to avoid it is to live each minute of your life to the fullest. 80% of our time is spend worrying about what we will do tomorrow and what we should have done yesterday. When you live in the moment you allow yourself to enjoy what’s happening in your life right now and that is sheer bliss. There are no guarantees for anyone in life and the terminally ill know this. They enjoy special moments with their family and friends and do the things they always wanted to do. They enjoy life.
3. The terminally ill make you realize how insignificant all your “problems” are. When I’m worrying about all the things in my life that I can’t control I go to work and I’m reminded that in the end none of it really matters. Worrying about cleaning the house, arguing with your kids teachers about homework, worrying about money…none of this stuff matters. Regardless of how important you believe your problems are, they’re not.
4. You relationships with your family and friends. Now there’s something that does matter. In fact, at the end of life, it’s the only thing that really matters. So while you’re here spend as much time as you can enjoying fun times with them. Don’t engage in petty squabbles about issues that don’t matter. Use your time wisely and have no regrets. Be willing to say you’re sorry and be considerate of the ones you love.
5. Laugh a lot. I know it may seem unbelievable that the terminally ill can laugh about anything. But these people have let down their guard. They no longer care what anyone thinks about them, they don’t have the worries of the future and they’ve learned that every day is a gift, so they can laugh at life.
Learn to be silly. Don’t worry about what others think and do the things you love to do. Enjoy life and cherish every single minute.
6. Live by your own rules. Take chances and believe in yourself. Take life by the reins and ride it hard. Some people love to control other people and if you don’t control your own destiny then someone else will do it for you.
In the end, you want to be able to look back and see that you lived a customized life that may not have been what someone else would have considered great, but it was perfect for you and that’s all that matters.
7. Say “I love you.” When I call my children I never hang up without telling them how much they mean to me. Although I never want to lose them I know that life is fragile and I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to them and I hadn’t told them how I felt. Don’t be one of those people who thinks, “well, they know I love them so I don’t have to tell them all the time.” Freaking tell them; as often as you can because one day it could be the last time you get the chance.
Working with the terminally ill has been one of the best opportunities to see life from a different perspective. Not from the eyes of someone who takes every day for granted, thinks about my own selfish needs and worries more about trivial nonsense than what really matters. But from the eyes of a person who is already at the end of the line and can weed out the craziness and appreciate each moment in this wild a crazy thing we call life!
What have you learned from working with the terminally ill?