Bereavement policies suck. At most places of employment, you get a week. And then you come back full time which is like a tsunami hitting you in the face. It’s so hard doing real life things such as grocery shopping, paying bills, and having to make a living after losing a child.
I think going back to work is not a bad thing. I just think at first, no one needs to go back full time after one week off. I feel like I could have used a little more time off at the beginning but I was a co-owner and it was hard to take more. I took about seven days. I did ease back in because I had that choice. I was not able to go a whole day but a few hours and then half days.
Concentrating was near impossible. Productivity? I did only what had to be done and focusing on anything took everything I had. At first you are just going through the motions but it does provide some needed distraction. And you will feel apathy for your job. None of it seems important compared to the monumental hurt with which you are dealing. In short, there are times that others are concerned about things you could give a rat’s ass about. That’s pretty natural so just be thankful someone cares about it.
So my recommendation is to take time off. For some that might mean one week or four. I don’t know that I’d do more than four weeks in most cases after death because the isolation can be very difficult. The important part is to ease back in.
If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide, suffer from mental illness or complex grief, you might need even more support and more time. It’s important you work with a counselor to figure out what’s right for you.
It doesn’t hurt to tell at least one person from work what you do or don’t want to talk about regarding your loved one or the death itself. Give them some direction because they don’t know and they are petrified of saying the wrong thing or making you cry. Our emotions are so raw at first and we do t have that much control over them. In fact, they may be afraid they’ll cry themselves.
It’s not unusual for people to take stock of their lives and what’s important after loss of a child. Job change, moving, early retirement are not uncommon. Just make sure you take time before you make any rash decisions. Give it a few months because looking for a new job while grieving can be challenging and making a major decision in the early days is not always as well thought out and often just an emotional decision.
After a suicide or a death related to drugs, people are often uncomfortable talking to you about it. If they didn’t know what to say about death before, they are struck dumb after a stigmatized death. That’s why sharing your expectations with at least one person about what you want helps guide the behavior of others.
If you are a mom or dad who doesn’t work outside the home, support during this period is essential. Taking care of other family members and yourself can be so difficult and making the effort to get out takes more energy than you are capable so it can be isolating. So make sure you and other family members have support. Many cities have bereavement support for families so ask friends to help you find that. They are asking what they can do and simply charge someone with that research on your behalf. Lean on family that you do have to help out.
I ended up selling my partnership after Charles’ suicide because I couldn’t rekindle the passion for my digital marketing company I co-owned. But I didn’t make that decision quickly and fortunately I had a business partner with which to collaborate which was a lifesaver.
Just know. You are going to need support and help. You weren’t meant to do this all alone. So don’t.
While these say loss of a child, most of what’s in them could relate to the loss of a spouse, sibling, or other close family member.
2 thoughts on “How soon should you go back to work after loss of a child?”
I have the same question. My 30 yr old son passed away on Christmas night in a car accident and Im still a mess. I was going to try and go back to work on Tuesday this next week and I dont think its a good idea but I dont want to lose my employment or financially put myself in a position of worrying about the future. Any advice would help. Im sorry I couldn’t give you any, im new and don’t really know how to navigate through this page yet. ❤
Brandi- I would suggest that you try and transition back slowly. So maybe do limited hours for four days per week. It’s good to have a distraction but maintaining any kind of concentration is very difficult. At first, the grief owns you, and getting control of its rhythms, getting to a place of acceptance is a process and it varies from person to person. So I think finding a way to slowly transition back that works for you is best. Maybe earmark starting next Monday and working a few hours. You won’t be super productive but it’s a way to facilitate some breaks from the unrelenting grief and heal at the same time. I know how devastating this kind of loss is. Keep telling yourself you will survive. I said it over and over. I didn’t know how, I just told myself I would.