Thankfulness and Vulnerability: How Nurses Can Express Their Emotions

Written by Samantha Wall, LCSW
Edited by Joe DeNoon


As nurses, you are witness to some of the most vulnerable moments in the lives of others.. No matter what is happening or the outcome, you all help to emotionally navigate these moments as well.. Nurses, while witnessing and helping others through the vulnerable moments, may not feel comfortable with vulnerability themselves. Francine gave us some amazing statements of gratitude and thankfulness in the last blog, but how often can it feel uncomfortable being vulnerable enough to say them?

One obstacle to this is the environment and world around you. Not only do nurses see vulnerable moments of others all the time, you also see the really hard parts of life.. This can prompt a desire to protect others from experiencing such things. Which, in turn, puts us in a position where feeling vulnerable can feel like a threat. Unfortunately, the end result of this feeling is expressing true gratitude and thankfulness does not come with ease to many nurses in this position.. Even though being vulnerable has so many benefits, it does not always feel natural or right to our survival. In the end, to protect ourselves and others, we begin to see any expression of vulnerability as threatening. 

As we have discussed many times on this blog, gratitude is so helpful when addressing our mental health, but difficult for many reasons.The struggle to be vulnerable is one of the big ones. So what are things to notice as we try to implement gratitude and thankfulness in our lives? How does my body feel when I connect with this vulnerable topic? Do I want to shut down? Do I want to disconnect? When we allow ourselves to notice what we don’t like about it, we can allow ourselves space to be uncomfortable. This can give us the time and space to connect with a type of vulnerability that many of us impulsively shut down when working in a health care setting. 

What else should we consider when thinking about thankfulness and vulnerability? Are we giving ourselves a safe space to get comfortable with this emotion? What is a space you can connect without going into a fight or flight mode where we need to protect our vulnerabilities? What is a space where I will not connect with that feeling? 

What is one thing you are grateful for? Who can we thank this week for what they do? Where can we be vulnerable? 

There are so many questions to answer for this topic! Becoming and being vulnerable is a unique and personal experience. I encourage you to look inward and be vulnerable with the answers. Let’s give some of what we give to grieving patients and families to ourselves and allow the space to be vulnerable. 

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