Bereavement Entitlements in the Work Place
by Katie D. Smith, Co-Editor

Employees in America's work force are entitled to specific policies to protect employees' rights and jobs.  Among such specific policies, many companies offer maternity leave for new parents that are welcoming the life of their new baby.  This allows parents to take time for relaxation after giving birth and adjust to life with their new arrival.  It allows parents to physically and emotionally heal after giving birth.  In many cases, the time line for such leave ranges from six weeks or more. 

Besides caring for one's new bundle of joy without the worries of losing one's job, another entitlement would be one's rights to bereavement leave.  I think it's ridiculous that most companies only allow three to five days for bereavement leave, when there's no time line for grief.  Yet, new parents can take several weeks when they bring home a healthy & happy baby from the hospital.  That seems like a double standard and a slap in the face for those that just gave birth and had to give a funeral for their baby all in the same week.  Bereavement leave of just a few days barely allows time to plan a funeral let alone begin to process the never ending road of grief. 

Some employers are willing to throw the bereavement leave three day policy out the door and allow their employees to take as much time as they need.  Unfortunately, not all employers feel this way, and many employers will follow the stupid book of three days for bereavement rule.  Three days to plan a funeral, say good-bye and get over it! 

Sounds like a slap in the face to me!  Get over it, huh?  Get over the fact that I will never hold my baby again?  Get over missing all the milestones I will not experience that other parents around me won't miss with their living children?  Get over the loss of my precious baby?  What a clueless remark to make to anyone that has had a loss of any kind.  You never get over a loss.  You just learn to adjust your life and live with that loss. 

We, as bereaved parents, will always be parents to our children in Heaven.  And we will forever hold our children in our hearts with all our love and grief combined.  No matter how much time goes by whether it be three hours, three days, three months, three years or more, we will always remember our children. We will forever grieve for our children and love our children.  Death doesn't mean we have to lock our memories and heartache up in a chest and forget about our children.

Employers should take a look at how grief might affect a person's ability to perform one's job duties adequately and sufficiently.  I know when I returned to work after my Son's death, it took me several months to fully focus on my job and perform at the expected level.  Grief can cause significant stress and attitude changes in workers. 

What an employer could do to help those experiencing grief is offer something like an "Employee Assistance Program" to help those hurting, to better help them manage their lives after the death of a loved one.   Such programs would be helpful. 

It's a shame that society puts time lines on such things as bereavement.  It's a shame that people expect you to get over a loss and be yourself and just bounce back to the life you had before a loss occurred.  Life is changed forever when you lose your baby.  You basically have to put yourself in that person's shoes and experience such grief to understand what that person is going through. 

When I lost my son, my work called me every other day wanting to know when I was coming back to work.  When I returned to work just two weeks after giving birth and giving a funeral to my only baby, I was told by my manager to snap out of this sadness, forget about my son and move on with my life.  I was speechless and shocked over such cold-hearted comments from my employer. Six months later, I finally found another job that seemed to care more about their employees. 

Whether or not your employer is flexible in the bereavement leave allotted to you, I urge you to stress to your employer your needs as a grieving parent.  Let your employer know how you feel and what you need for self care and preservation.  If you need more time off from work, apply for Family Medical Leave of Absence also known as FMLA.  It is your right as an employee to have this time to start your physical and emotional healing without the worries of losing your job.  FMLA will protect your job security, while you are off from work.  And upon your return from FMLA, you may also consider having your primary care physician place you on restrictions at work such as only working part-time and limiting job duties to help lessen stress on the job. 

On another note, I'd also like to remind bereaved parents that it's okay to be private in your grief.  What you share with your employer does not need to be shared with your fellow employees.  And it's also okay to place photos and memorabilia on your desk at work of your baby.  After all, those with living children display photos and such of their family. 

My heart goes out to those that are experiencing the loss of a baby.  I'd like to invite other parents to share their bereavement leave experiences with work by contacting me via email: .  Please note in your email whether or not it is okay to share your story in future follow-up articles on this subject. 

May the Spring season bring new beginnings in your lives and may you see more sun-shining days than rain.  May the warmth of the sun hug you with comfort. 

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