Friday, May 22, 2009

Dealing with the stages of Grief

Dealing with the stages of Grief
Often times when nannies see the writing on the wall, they go into the first stage of grief.
1. The first stage of grief is denial.
If I pretend this is not happening it won’t be, and I won’t have to figure out what to do or how to find a new job or most importantly, how to leave these children that I love so much.
2.Then comes Anger
“After all I have done for this family I can’t believe that they treat me like this!
Then comes
If I can just focus on the children it will be ok.
Then you move on:
You either realize that loving the children is not enough and that you have no choice but to move on, or the parents let you go and the decision is beyond your control.This is the time that you find yourself sinking into that dark hole of sadness and pain.
4. Depression
You know that you have to make important decisions but you just can’t find the energy. It is hard to get from one minute to the next and impossible to think of your life in terms of tomorrow, much less the future. This is also the time when you might say to yourself, I will never be a nanny again, this is just too painful.
Eventually you are forced to accept that the job is ending and you need to decide what to do next.
Sometimes, even when a job ends, it is still hard to move on to the stage of acceptance. Sometimes not being able to accept that loss contributes to not being happy or successful in our next position.
Change is always difficult and it is always an adjustment when you change jobs. Oftentimes, when nannies change jobs, if they are a live in nanny, they also change their place to live.
It is also harder for a nanny because unlike a job where you work in a factory, or sit at a desk all day our job elicits emotions of love,compassion caring and tenderness.
How do you just turn those feelings off when the job ends?
So when we leave a job, we also have to deal with an end or a change to a relationship.
It’s easy to say that this is a part of our job and that saying goodbye goes with the territory. It’s easy to say that we “just have to be professional” about it. It’s easy to say “ You just focus on the positive and move on”
It just is not “EASY” to do.
When you are going through the process of grieving, it is important to have a good support system in place to help you stay focused and help you deal with your emotions.
Grieving is a process that you have to work through in your own time on your own schedule.
Let yourself feel, let yourself hurt, let yourself cry, and then most importantly
Let yourself heal.

When we have to say goodbye, for whatever reason, we often feel betrayed by the parents who entrusted us to love and care for their children.
It is hard to be rational with a broken heart but it is very important to accept what you can not change and look to your future.

In Merle Shain’s book “Hearts that We Broke Long Ago” she said:
“ People do not usually set out to hurt you, but sometimes you get in the way of what they want or what they need."

If you stop and think about that statement, there is a lot of truth to it.
When that family hired you, they did not say, let’s hire a nanny, keep her until she gets attached to the children, and then let her go.
It is just a natural process of our job.
Sometimes when a job is ending, the parents feel emotional too. If the nanny makes the choice to leave, the parents might feel rejected, and wonder “What did we do to make her want to leave us?”
At a time when they might want to say “We don’t’ know how we can live without you, their actions might say “We couldn’t care less that you are leaving”
Sometimes it is hard for parents to admit what an important part of your life they are, and if the parents are letting the nanny go they might try to send the message that they will be just fine without her.
Never forget that your first priority is support the children through this transition. This is quite possibly one of the most important lessons you will teach the children in your care, and it is crucial that we set an example that they can follow.
It also helps to focus on the good times you have had with this family and the happy memories you will take with you.
At a time when it is easier to see the negative, try to remember the great experiences you had, the opportunities you were offered and what you learned from the time you spent there.
We usually learn more from the hard times in our lives than we do from the happy times.
If a position is ending badly, and you wish that you could pour your heart out to the family, you might try just writing a letter to get your feelings out on paper. You don’t have to mail it but just writing your thoughts down might be helpful in processing all the emotion you are feeling.
When you allow yourself to forgive, you can move forward but until you can forgive (Whether it is for treating you badly, or letting you go, or keeping you from their children) you can never truly move forward and you can never truly begin to heal.
If you choose to hold on to the wrong that was done to you, you choose to drag a heavy load around with you and it will weigh you down and hold you back. It will also keep you in the pain.
Dealing with the pain is not something that is going to go away in a week or month or even years. .
Children grow up in spite of us, whether we are there, or not. I sometimes find myself looking at old pictures or videos of my charges when they were little I truly miss them being at those stages of their life but I also enjoy seeing them grow up and learn and know that I have had a part of all of that.
If you are leaving a family on good terms it is important for you to talk about how you are going to deal with telling the children.
Who is going to tell them, what they will be told and whether or not you will be a part of that.
The nanny should never tell a child she is leaving without the parents ok, and she should never tell the child that the parents are making her leave or firing her.
Even though you might be hurt or angry, you should always take the high road as you transition to the final days in this position.
You will never be sorry you took the high road, but you may regret it if you take the low road.
In the book "How to Survive the Loss of Love" they talk about the stages of recovery taking place in three distinct, yet overlapping stages.
They are :
understanding/acceptance/moving on
Each stage of recovery is
a part of the healing process

Having said all of that, sometimes, the pain is more than we can bear alone.
If you think you need help, don't hesitate. Get it at once.
If you are feeling suicidal--or even think you might be feeling suicidal--call a Suicide Prevention Hotline at once.
You should also seek help at once if you:
feel you are "coming apart"
are no longer in control
are about to take an action you may later regret
have a history of emotional disturbance
turn to alcohol, drugs or other addictive substances in time of need
feel isolated with no one to turn to
repeatedly find yourself in loss situations
Sometimes, we all need a little bit of extra help to get through a really difficult time. It is nothing to be embarrassed about.


  1. I think i am in the acceptance part now. I am sad but ready. I am worried about the kids but hopeful they will be able to reach out when needed. I will to them and see them often. That was such a timely piece for me . Thanks :)

  2. Regarding holding on to the hurt that may have been done to us,
    I have found that this statement I once read in the Reader's Digest has helped me turn away from continually returning to my rage and indignation over such mistreatment: "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die."

    Every time my thoughts and feelings return to the incident that upset me, I remind myself of that. Continuing to dwell on what they did or said is only hurting myself.

    And to further help let go, I look to put myself in the other person's shoes for a moment and see why they acted that way. Not that they were right to treat me badly, but that they were stressed and hurting, or whatever, and it might be appropriate to forgive them for behaving inappropriately and wish them well. I've let my hurt or anger let me hurt people in the past, and I have to recognize that it's only human. If I can forgive myself, I can forgive them.

    I work on my reactions and feelings not to be virtuous, but because it helps me let go of that consuming pain and anger and get some peace.

  3. This is such a good way to look at the whole transitioning process. And we have to remember as nannies that as we go through the 5 steps of loss, the family and kids are also going through those stages. Even if they made the choice to say good bye.

    Great post!

  4. Wow, I needed this now. I was a nanny for a family for 4 years. I saw the youngest two from birth to ages 2 and 4. I was with all 3 every day for all that time. The two older ones eventually went to school but the baby was still home with me. I knew my time was nearing an end and didn't look forward to it,but wanted to help transition her into school. Well, I got sick and was out a couple days,which had never happened, and they fired me. Through email, of all things. And never let me come say goodbye to the children. At first they made it seem like they would, but after a couple weeks of ignoring my requests to even FaceTime with them, I knew.... these people who I had grown to really care about, and the children whom I loved so much and so fiercely, we're gone. They had cut me out for no reason other than they didn't want to "confuse the kids". It was the most horrible situation of my life, and because I was dealing w a major health scare that precipitated them doing this, I easily spiraled into depression. It has been 3 months and I have been in therapy and am doing much better, but I grieve those children. It is such a loss of true love. My husband and I have been unable to have our own babies, so they brought so much joy to my life. And now it is gone.

    Reading your article made me feel better I am not the only one... This grief is normal. I lIke the quote you put about me maybe getting in the way of what they wanted or needed. I think maybe they really liked how well I cared for their children,but it exposed many of their own insecurities. They wanted something else yet chose not to end things nicely and humanly. That isn't my fault. But it is so hard to wrap my head around still....

    I will check out the books you mentioned. Thanks!

  5. This article was just what I needed as I am preparing to leave my nanny family of 4 years. I am so deeply sad, a sadness I’ve never felt before. I am honestly worried about it having a negative effect on my next position. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling this way. I am so thankful for this site and all of the articles that have helped me feel less alone! Thank you!

    1. Thank you. Let me know how I can support you. I also have a facebook page for Nanny Transitions.