While there is a tradition of recognising and contending with the emotional content of ethnography (e.g. informant emotions, researcher empathy), there are few accounts of research which illustrate clearly the emotional work done by researchers, and the value of such work as an analytical tool. Yet, in the human services, and especially where trauma is involved, ignoring emotional dynamics actually runs the risk of 'dumbing down' our analyses. The current paper draws on ethnographer experiences during an evaluation of a youth suicide prevention project at the Connexions agency in inner-city Melbourne. The organisation, which is a part of Jesuit Social Services, provides outreach, therapy and other services (e.g. drop-in, labour market program) to marginalised young people. The paper argues that researcher emotions are actually important to isolate and examine in order to adequately capture the meanings participants attribute to their realities and actions. Nevertheless, through the exploration of specific dilemmas, it is shown that recognising and processing difficult emotions can be a confronting yet rewarding exercise for researchers, both personally and in terms of research outcomes. The paper also discusses how the ethnographer managed to conduct research in a setting involving trauma.