representation of the daily life of a nurse going to work

How self-acceptance and self-compassion can help you recover from moral injury

As a healthcare provider working during the pandemic, you have almost certainly experienced potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs). Self-acceptance and self-compassion may be critical to your recovery.

During COVID-19, many HCPs like you have:

  • Coped with large numbers of people dying.
  • Had to comfort patients whose family members were not allowed to visit them. 
  • Been unable to provide care the way you wanted or even needed to.
  • Felt abandoned, undermined, or attacked by your organization’s leadership and/or your government.
  • Had to follow hospital rules created by administrators who do not see patients themselves.
  • Watched non-HCPs refuse to follow health orders like masking or social distancing.

Take a moment and reflect on what acceptance means relative to the PMIEs you have been exposed to. Know that there is nothing “good” about these events. But when you fight against your own experiences, you deny yourself the ability to acknowledge the truth of what’s happened to you.

Giving voice to hard situations and their consequences can be initially painful. But it’s essential to remember that who you are is not tied to what has happened to you. You can still love and accept yourself as you are.

Self-compassion can be a balm for moral injury.

Self-compassion is critical to recovering from moral injury. Research shows that developing self-compassion leads to:

  • More happiness, wisdom, optimism, gratitude, curiosity, connectedness, and positivity
  • Greater emotional intelligence
  • Increased ability to bounce back from negative moods
  • Health-seeking behaviours like healthful eating, exercise, and sleep6

Self-compassion can also improve how you feel about the person who has committed the PMIE. It can even restore broken relationships.

Acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes — it’s part of being human — can help you begin to heal.