Overcoming The Burden of Guilt as A Nurse

Janice Post-White, PhD, RN, FAAN, an oncology nurse and caregiver, discusses how she handled the guilt she felt following her son’s leukemia diagnosis.

As an oncology nurse, it can be easy to get lost in a feeling of guilt when someone in your life receives a cancer diagnosis, according to Janice Post-White, PhD, RN, FAAN. However, it is important to acknowledge that guilt before one can let it go.

Post-White was an oncology nurse when her 4-year-old son, Brennan, was diagnosed with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Her recently published book, “Standing at Water’s Edge,” delves into the fear and grief she felt while her son was undergoing treatment.

In an interview with Oncology Nursing News®, Post-White explained how, after her son’s diagnosis, she struggled with a heavy feeling of guilt for not recognizing the signs sooner. She went on to explain that many people may deal with similar feelings of guilt, but that the important thing is to recognize it to move forward.

“You reflect back, and you [wonder] how did I miss that?” explained Post-White.

“We can we ruminate about the past, we [can] worry about the future, but the important thing is to stay present in the day,” she continued. “Guilt is an incredible burden—and all of those ‘would haves—should haves—could haves’, [or however] you think about, [or thinking] ‘I should have done that. Why didn't I see that?’ It is a burden to carry.”

“It is important to acknowledge it and say, ‘I feel guilty about this. I need to process this before I can let it go.’ Writing helped me do that. But that's what you need to do. You need to process it and you need to feel it again before you can let it go,” she concluded.