Getting Back to the Swing of Things at Work

When I started working again after Joshua died, I cried everyday on my way home from work.  And I must be honest, I’d sometimes cry on my way to work and during work.  It was hard to hold back the tears.

I cried in the car because I remembered spending time with Joshua in the car, just the two of us.  A song would come on the radio and I’d remember singing along when I was pregnant.  I wanted to make sure he knew my voice and knew about God.  I only listened to a Christian radio station while I was pregnant.  [Over]protective mama-mode kicked in; I didn’t want my baby exposed to non-Christian music at such a young age.  In the car, I’d also cry because I just made it through one more day at work and today was better or maybe worse than the day before.  It didn’t matter what it was at that point, anything would start the tears.

At work I would cry when people asked me about Joshua or gave me their condolences.  But mainly I’d cry because I felt like nothing mattered at work.  Before I went on leave, I loved my job.  Yes, some things at my job brought me down and after years of working for the same company, I was ready for much deserved time off just the baby and me!  Then one of the most life-altering events happened to me which made me reevaluate just about every aspect of my life.  When I got back to work, I felt like it didn’t mean anything.  I wasn’t changing the world.   I sat at my desk numb.

Aside from feeling like my job wasn’t important anymore, between what people call “pregnancy brain”, the stress, and my 10 weeks off work, I was fuzzy.  My foggy brain extended past work.  At church someone asked me what my parent’s names were and my husband had to answer for me.  Embarrassingly I could not even recall my own parent’s names!  At work, doing simple daily tasks took twice as long; this is, if I even remembered how to do them.  I would sit in meetings and think, what the heck is everyone talking about?  I used to be on top of meetings, contributing and taking away new to-dos, but soon after I was back to work I’d just stare blankly.  All I could think about was, there’s more to life than what I’m doing right now.

It didn’t help that my new manager that I got while on leave is not a compassionate person.  My first day back at work, I didn’t expect a welcome back party, but I expected a brief meeting to go over my transition back to work, any changes that happened in the last 10 weeks, and for her to check in on how I was doing in general.  My new manager breezed by my desk an hour after I had arrived on my first day back, simply said hi and walked away.  A while later I passed her in the hall and said, “Do you have 5 minutes today where we could catch up and go over my transition back?”.  She got a weird look on her face, “Yeah…….I’m really busy, I’ll set up a meeting with you sometime this week.”  She didn’t say more than “hi” to me until we met three weeks later after I followed up with her two more times to meet.

It’s now been two months and I can say that I’m much more content with my job; almost to the point where I love it again.  I no longer cry in the car and seldom cry at work (only if I read a sad story in the news or I am chatting with someone about Joshua).  In the beginning, I wanted to throw in the towel, but would quitting my job or getting a new job make me any happier – no.  It wasn’t my job I was unhappy with, it was life in general.  I was (and am) still grieving and still reevaluating my life.  My job isn’t going to take the pain away from losing my son, but I am grateful for my job which keeps my mind on something other than my grief.

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9 Things NOT to Say to a Bereaved Parent, and 8 Things to Say

Most people have the best intentions when they are trying to comfort you while you’re grieving.  I know that!  However, sometimes the words just don’t translate well.  If you said something like this to me, please know, I’m not upset that you said this!  I know your intentions were good!

You’ll be a great mom someday!  Guess what, I am a mom!  A great on at that!  Just because my baby didn’t come home from the hospital with me doesn’t mean I’m not a mom.  If a child died at age 6, does that mean that woman is no longer a mother?  I created this being, I carried him, and I will always be his mom!  

You’re a spring chicken, you’ll have more kids.  First off, I wanted this child!  More children cannot replace the one you’ve lost.  Just because I’m young or just because I can have more kids, doesn’t make me feel better about the one I lost.  Secondly, there’s no guarantee that I’ll have more kids.  You don’t know if it took a month, a year, or 5 rounds of IVF to have this child.

Something went wrong, babies don’t just die.  There was no explanation of my son’s death during labor.  Nothing went wrong, nothing could have been done differently.  And if something could have been done differently, I will never know because that’s not the reality of what happened and I refuse to dwell on the “what ifs”.

If something was wrong with him, it’s better it happened when it did than finding him in his crib a few days later.  Either scenario is awful, but I would have loved to have seen my baby alive and interacting with me.  Even if it was just for a few short days.

Are you going to sue the doctors?  I had a few people ask me this.  I thought it was such a silly questions and frankly, none of their business if we were planning to sue.  This is so irrelevant to the death of my child and felt more like a bit a gossip they wanted to spread if the answer was “yes”.

I know how you feel.  No one truly knows how you feel even if they’ve been in the same situation.  No death, no grief is equal.  Tread lightly when telling people you know how they feel, every situation is different.  However, it is comforting to know that people share similar grief.  I find comfort in knowing that I’m not in this alone.

I can’t imagine the pain you feel.  Please don’t imagine it, it’s awful!  And please don’t remind me how painful it is.

You’re so strong, I would never be that strong!  When life throws things like this at you, you have no choice.  And quite honestly, I feel weak, I cry at random things, and I yearn for my baby.  I don’t feel strong, nor do I feel the need to be strong.

Something similar happened to so and so, but their baby lived.  It is in no way comforting to know that something similar happened to someone else, but their baby lived and mine died.  If you have a similar story like this, please keep it to yourself.

Instead try letting the person know that you care for them and the person who died.

I’m sorry.  Period.

You’ve been in my prayers.  Some don’t like this because people have different religions, but to me, it felt good knowing that I was in people’s prayers.

I think of you often.  It was nice for me to know that people were thinking of me during this hard time in my life.

Can I see pictures?  This was the best for me!!  I only had 2 friends who actually asked to see photos.  Most of the time I was asking people if they wanted to see pictures.  I love showing pictures of my baby to people, I don’t get the opportunity to do that enough.  He’s perfect and I will never tire of showing people how cute he is or looking at them myself!

He is beautiful/precious/handsome/adorable/etc.  This hits me so hard when it is said to me!  Yes, people initially told me after I showed them pictures, but one friend did out of the blue.  It was about two months after Joshua died and we were out to eat with some friends and their baby.  I was oogling over their baby and said, “he’s so cute!”  And she immediately responded, “Joshua was beautiful too!”  She couldn’t have said anything more meaningful to me.

He was very special.  Thank you, I think so too!

I’m here.  Though this is usually a passive way of helping people, it’s nice to hear.

I remember.  People are there immediately following a death but it seems they quickly dive back into their busy lives.  To a bereaved parent, this can come across as forgetting the baby who has died.  Weeks, months, years down the road, mention the baby.  Say the baby’s name.  Remember key days and reach out.  You have no idea what an impact this makes!

The Dreaded First Day of Work

I was lucky enough to take nearly my whole leave off.  I went back to work a couple weeks earlier than originally planned.  During my time off, between the crying and blank stares, I was feeling okay.  Still sad, but okay.  And by that, I mean I no longer cried all day long and had somewhat accepted what happened.

Then I had to go back to work.  Part of me was excited to see everyone and get back into a routine and the other part of me was paralyzed with fear.

Scared people would look at me with eyes of pity.

Scared I’d cry.

Scared people would ask me questions.

Scared people wouldn’t say anything at all.

Scared people didn’t know what happened.

All of those happened the moment I walked in the door.  I started bawling.  I felt so out of place.  The last time I was at work was a week before I had Joshua, awaiting my new arrival.  The last time I was at work, I was happy.

Going back to work was a huge step back in my progress to my “new normal”.

I was back to the grind within minutes.  The majority of people didn’t say more than “hi, nice to have you back”.  But there were some who truly cared.  You could see it in their eye when they asked, “how are you?” and said, “I haven’t stopped praying for you and your family since I heard”.  That meant more to me than they knew.

The ones I appreciated the most were those who came up to me and said more than a few brief sentences.  People told me they were sorry.  Somehow that one word felt so good.  Some told me that Joshua is a angel watching down on us (which I truly believe).  One even said, “think how special your son is that God wanted him right now”.  Thank you, he is special!

Then there are people who don’t know what to say so they don’t say anything at all.  I get it, I hardly know what to say myself.  And sadly, I’ve been that person before.  It hurts.  Saying nothing is way worse that saying something.  Even if you don’t have the words, say something.  Anything.  Acknowledge there was a loss, acknowledge there was a life.  I think people don’t say anything in part because they don’t want to make me sad.  But the truth is, I am sad.  Saying something is not going to make me more sad.  Saying something validates his life.  Makes him feel more real, more here.

It makes me happy to talk about my son.  I don’t get enough times that I get to talk about him since he’s no longer here.  I don’t get to talk about his milestones or how much fun we had over the weekend, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a part of my life.  He was and will always be a huge part of my life.

With anyone going through some sort of loss…talk to them.  Talk about the person they lost.  Talk about their grief.  Talk about how you’re continually thinking of them or praying for them.  Most importantly, acknowledge the loss and how much that person meant to them.