So what is the right amount of time to be out of work after death of a child? That depends on the individual.
Loss of a child is a traumatic grief whether it’s suicide, overdose, death from cancer, or some other cause.
Parents who lose a child still have mortgages to pay and car payments to make. For many Americans, no work means no pay. So choice has little to do with how soon some people go back after a child’s death. Consider yourself fortunate if you do have choices.
For those who do have a choice, there is no decision that doesn’t raise eyebrows.
You’ll find there is a lot of opinion around the subject despite the fact those making those judgements have no experience with it. It may be dictated by policy and some employers might be more rigid than others. Bereavement policies hardly take into account the impact such an event has, not only on the parent returning to work, but on the entire department.
After a week, some parents are in bed in a bathrobe while others are back in a board room
Some people need a distraction. The pain is just too intense to spend that much time alone with their grief. Yet others need that time to curl up in a cocoon in semi hibernation. And no one can tell you how to grieve because what works for you is the right thing.
At first it’s all about surviving each day.
You might argue that the guy that heads back too fast is burying himself in work. Which may be the case. But that’s not the case with everyone who does that. For many people, their identity is wrapped up in their work and leaving it behind for too long is like leaving the other side of their soul. When one loses a child, a parent often doesn’t know who they are and that transformation to figuring it all out takes time.
When should you be worried about a grieving loved one? Or yourself.
It’s when a person is unable to engage in any life activities outside the home several months after the event that can be a concern. That’s when a parent needs some additional support.
What might that look like? Too much work. Too much bed. Or too much booze would be some examples.
If I had to make a recommendation it would be to ease back into work slowly after one or two weeks working limited hours when you return.
But I’m not going to critique someone who chooses to take a month off and hike the Appalachian Trail. Or the one that has to find some peace in his research lab.
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.