I have spent the last year speaking to 100′s of grieving dads regarding the impacts that the death of a child has on one’s life. How the devastation changes everything from how you interact with people, your overall outlook on life and your physical and psychological health. A more specific topic that we discussed is how the death of a child impacts your career/job.
Many men jump right back into work to avoid thinking about the impact that had just occurred to them, their family and their child. Many stated that they had to find a way to keep their mind occupied so they didn’t “lose control”. A common theme is the fact that most of the grieving dads went back to work because they still had the responsibility to “take care of the family”. A fair number of the men are the sole income providers so they couldn’t just walk away from their job or risk losing it. However, almost all of them agree that the ability to focus on their work has been impacted dramatically. Not to mention they had lost all interest in the work that they were doing.
I was one of the men that went back to work a week after the death of my daughter. I guess I was hoping to bury my emotions and pain with her. I really don’t remember what I worked on, but I do remember that every little bit of stress put me over the edge and my anger would rear its ugly head. My short fuse and lack of patience would get the best of me and I would unleash on who ever was around me.
The truth was I shouldn’t have even been at work since I wasn’t able to focus on what I was doing. I would go home at the end of the day and I couldn’t tell you what I had even worked on the previous ten hours. To be honest, I am not sure I worked on anything, but I felt exhausted as if I had been working feverishly all day. Every task seemed to be monumental and I would find a way to delegate it to one of my staff members.
This had gone on for almost a year and a half until I was dealt another major blow in my life, the death of my son. His death sent me over the edge on so many levels of my life. But to stick with the topic of this blog posting, work was no exception. I called my boss and explained to him that I was unable to return to work and that I was taking time off and that I wasn’t sure when I was going to return to work. Deep down, I wasn’t sure I was even going to be able to survive this in order to return to work at all. Work was the last thing on my mind.
Based on advice from a friend, I filed paperwork for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to protect my job when and if I decided to return to work. I requested the 12 weeks allowed by this law. However, since the death of a child is not included as part of the FMLA, I had to lie and tell them I was taking care of my wife who had medical conditions that required me to take care of her. The truth was I had my own medical issues I needed to address.
I spent the next 12 weeks trying to heal, reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the death of my two children and trying to keep myself from losing complete control. It was during the summer months so I spent most of my days outside doing work around the house, jogging, biking and enjoying lunch with my wife every day on the patio. I was trying to allow myself to feel the pain as a way to process what had just happened. It was my way of trying to heal without other life responsibilities getting in the way.
I returned to work after those 12 weeks and even though it wasn’t anywhere near the amount of time I needed, I learned it was a much better path for me to spend that time reflecting and processing the trauma I had endured over the last couple of years.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about how important those 12 weeks were to my health. It was important to spend that time grieving with my wife, together. This wasn’t always an easy task, but it allowed us to have some very honest conversations with each other. To learn what the other person was dealing with and to realize we were both on two separate journeys together.
I feel strongly that every person that experiences the death of a child should have an option to take those 12 weeks. I BELIEVE THAT THE DEATH OF A CHILD SHOULD BE INCLUDED AS PART OF THE FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT.
If you agree with me, I ask you to do two things: 1) Click here to learn more about this issue and to sign the e-petition I have started and 2) Share this posting with everyone you know by clicking on any and all of the “live” buttons below this posting and adding this link to your own personal blog.
I will be spending a lot of my time on this issue. Together, let’s see if we can get someone’s attention to make the necessary changes to the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993.