And I am a warrior.
Grief is exhausting.-Ciaran Hinds
Well, I survived an entire month back at work. It was challenging. Some days I’d drive all the way to a town and then walk around mindlessly. Other days, I’d absolutely slay the day.
Honestly, it’s been a good balance. Overall, I am proud of myself. I have to make the choice to get up every day, and I am.
I almost quit my job in the first 2 weeks after Kellan died. I was scared to go back and instead of dealing with it, I just wanted to quit. Thank God I didn’t do that.
I often wonder how many people do quit their jobs out of fear.
It is SCARY to go back to work. The fear of crying while working, the exhaustion of trying to stay focused, the pain of seeing unexpected triggers. My heart goes out to those parents who are expected to return to work quickly after losing their child. I was incredibly fortunate, and was allowed to take as much time as I needed.
The first 2 weeks of the month was rough. I had just gotten back from Russia, and I was trying to navigate how to acclimate myself to Aberdeen and work again. Part of my job is visiting with different businesses in my territory. That’s the scary part – people knew I was pregnant. People are going to ask about my baby.
I have to mentally prepare myself each day to answer questions about Kellan. And to tell multiple people each day that my son is dead. I literally save all of my energy for these moments, because it’s physically exhausting. But it’s part of the process and I am doing it. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I don’t.
There are some days that I willingly bring up Kellan and want to talk about him. It just depends on the moment honestly.
The last week of the month, I had one of my toughest days. I drove to a town about 110 miles away, and tried my best. I got a few things checked off my list and decided to head to another town 20 miles away. When I arrived, I saw an adorable little boy who was probably 2, playing outside of a business digging a hole. He was precious.
I walked inside and talked with his mom a bit. I made a comment about him digging the hole and how happy he was. She laughed and said something about telling him to go play in the street.
I laughed with her.
But inside I was screaming. Her comment absolutely tore me apart. It was a joke, I knew that. A joking comment, that in the past I would have genuinely laughed at. This time, it ended my work day in an instant. Instead of continuing to work, I got in my car and drove home. I cried on and off for the entire 90 miles.
We really don’t know the impact of our words on others sometimes.
The next day, I had one of the best days of my month. A co-worker came and road along with me for the day. We had an awesome time together. I had some great meetings – the day flew by with lots of laughs and productive fun. I worked from 7am to 7pm that day. It was fabulous and I felt like me.
The reality is – unless you have a lifestyle that allows you to not work again, you’ll have to return. The bills have to be paid, and paid time off runs out eventually. The return will be full of ups and downs, just like everyday life. What blows my mind, is that a lot of jobs don’t offer bereavement leave.
Why? I literally have no clue.
To expect a person can go through a traumatic event and then perform their job immediately after is truly ludicrous. Does it happen? Yes – my husband is a great example. Some people need to go back to work and have their routine back. But others need time to process what happened, and figure out how to navigate back into the world. That was me.
For an employer, I think allowing your employee to ease back into work is crucial. If they’re ready to dive in, let them. If they need to tip toe into the job, that’s ok too. Forcing a return after a certain amount of time is rough. There’s no possible way for a person to force their mind to focus. Be supportive, check-in, ask them where they feel they’re at in the process. Tell them it’s ok to be honest. Let them do what they can, when they can. Be sure they understand their job is not at risk (but only if it’s truly not). Listen to them. Help them.
For co-workers, the best thing you can do is be understanding and step up in your co-workers absence. Let them know you have their back. Offer to help when you can. Make sure they know it’s ok to not be ok. Send positive thoughts and encouragement. Listen to them when they need to talk. Even if they don’t respond when you reach out, it’s ok to reach out and let them know you are there. They are scared.
Those around my job were and continue to be incredible, and for that I can’t thank them enough. I only wish that every person going through a tragic loss could have the same support. It is truly sad to think that many parents don’t get the healing time that they need.
So if you’re an employer and reading this – please remember my words if you are ever faced with this situation. Read back through my journey and try to understand what proper time off can do for someone going through a trauma. You have the ability to make a huge difference in your employee’s healing process & life.
I survived a month back at work. And tomorrow I will start another. I did it, and I will do it again. I may be exhausted, but it’s a part of my healing. It’s part of who I am now. And I am a warrior.