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How to Manage Your Grief While On Assignment

Posted on: April 13, 2021


written by

Risa Kerslake, RN

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It's an overstatement: 2020 was hard, and there's still so much to come. You may be finding yourself overworked, dealing with trauma on a daily basis, having an increase in deaths on the units, or feeling the effects of post-traumatic stress.

Grief affects everyone, and nurses and other health care workers are dealing with a lot through the pandemic. When you're traveling, it can bring unique aspects to the grieving process as you may be away from your friends and family. The good news is, there are ways to help work through your grief and they don't require big changes. Read on to see if some of these ideas can help manage feelings of grief while you're on assignment.

Write about it

Writing can be a way to really think through and process your emotions. Use a journal, a notebook, or even writing on your computer. Of course, if writing isn't your thing, you may not find this helpful. But for those who like the process of writing, it can be a good way to get down everything that's going on in your head on paper (or on a screen).

Recognize your feelings

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to name the emotions you're experiencing. Say it out loud: "I'm feeling anxious and scared." "I'm grieving this patient's death." Naming your emotions sounds like a simple exercise but getting to the cause of what you're feeling is helpful when it comes to dealing with your emotions.

Limit your social media exposure

The internet is a crowded place, and while it's clearly beneficial, sometimes there are a lot of negative things floating around, from your friends' opinions to the constant barrage of news. When things are overwhelming and you're not in a place to deal with this storm of information, it can be healing to take a step back. Maybe it's for a weekend, a few weeks, or you delete out the social media apps on your phone and unplug indefinitely. Whatever time frame you decide can do wonders for your mental state.

Give yourself a time limit to grieve

From day-to-day, give yourself a time limit for either thinking about your grief or sharing together with your coworkers. You might possibly say to yourself, "I'm going to give myself fifteen minutes to talk about what's going on with my coworker, and then we're going to stop talking about it until tomorrow." This gives you a chance to really dive into your feelings, but it's important not to stay there too long because that's where things can make you dwell.

Don't neglect your physical health

It can be easy when you're going through a lot to let other things in your life slide, such as your regular exercise routine, or eating as healthy as possible. If you find yourself to be a person who tends to neglect physical health, it may be important to recognize that and actively take steps to maintain your health.

Take some time off

If your situation is getting to be too much to deal with and you really find yourself struggling, it may be a good time to consider stepping back for a time. If your contract is coming to an end, maybe you decide to take a few weeks off to focus on yourself. And of course, if you're mid-assignment, but find you need a break, talk to your superior about how you can work out a plan to take some time off.

Consider therapy

With the world becoming more virtual, there has been a major increase in online therapy. There are many different online sites with qualified professionals that can see you when you don't have time or can't go to in-person sessions. Many times, all you need is your phone or laptop to have a session with a therapist. It can be a great resource when you're away for weeks or months at a time on assignment.

Grief shouldn't be dealt with in isolation, and luckily, there are some things you can do to take control of your grief so that you are able to work through it in a healthy way.

Ready to begin your journey into traveling healthcare? Contact the Barton Healthcare Staffing team today to get started!

Risa Kerslake, RN
About Risa Kerslake, RN

Risa Kerslake, RN, BSN is a Minnesota-based nurse and freelance writer. She has experience in a variety of settings including psychiatric nursing, triage, and case management. Learn more about her freelance writing at