First Published at Still Standing Magazine
Returning to work after losing your baby can be scary. What do you do? What do you say? When is the right time to actually go back?
There were 10 things that helped me to ease back into working life after losing my son. These things helped me to be patient with myself and be patient with others. They helped me to take the next step in my journey and start to find a little bit of me again.
1) Wait until you are ready to return –
The right time to return to work will be different for everyone. I didn’t rush my return and only went back after 10 months. For me, I wanted to feel strong and more stable before I returned. I hoped that this would give me a better chance of navigating my challenging work environment. When the time came to return it felt like the right thing to do.
2) Phased return to work plan –
I requested to return, initially, on a part-time basis so as to ease back into the routine. After 6 weeks part time, I would return to my full-time hours.
3) Don’t pretend you’re ok –
I didn’t pretend that I was ok when I was discussing my return with my boss. I let it be known that I was still on a journey of recovery and that I would need support and flexibility, particularly in attending my ongoing counseling sessions.
4) Time off for your baby’s birthday –
I requested three days off in advance for Benjamin’s birthday. I explained how difficult it would be and how I wouldn’t be able to work over this period. That way I didn’t need to have that conversation with work closer to the time when I would most likely be struggling.
5) Email to work colleagues –
I sent my colleagues an email in advance of my return to let them know how I was feeling, what helps me and what doesn’t. I gave them direction on how to talk to me and to not be afraid to mention Benjamin. A lot of my work colleagues had not been in contact since Benjamin died. The email helped to break the ice and therefore eliminate the elephant in the room. I got a really positive response, with many people emailing back to say thank you. It gave those who hadn’t contacted me an “easy in”. It gave those who didn’t know what to say some guidance.
When I saw people they weren’t afraid to talk to me, instead, they embraced me. Most people are crippled with indecision on what to say to us BUT they do care. I know that their feelings on the subject are nothing in comparison to what we are feeling. But hey if we make it easier for them we also make it easier for us.
6) Be close to supportive people –
There are a few girls from my team that were there for me, supporting me, from the very beginning. I feel comfortable with them and they look out for me. When organising my return to work I requested to sit beside them so that I didn’t have to make small talk with people I didn’t know.
7) Keep other life stressors low –
It is a massive change to return to work after an extended period away, let alone adding on top of that the loss of your child. I find big changes extremely stressful now so everything else was put on the back burner as I prepared for my return to work.
8) Buy yourself a return to work gift –
I bought myself a new work bag to try and associate some excitement with my return to work. There are lots of good things that can come out of returning to work but sometimes you forget that when the anxiety takes over.
9) Take things easy in your first weeks –
Try not to make any plans after work for the first week. I was emotionally exhausted each evening after work. Having no plans enabled me to enact some self-care and therefore only do what I felt like (which for me was sleeping…a lot). Also, try to ensure that you take your breaks. A good example is to go for coffee with a friend. This will help to light up the positive neural pathways in your mind and consequently remind yourself what it is like to live without the constant heaviness of grief.
10) Prepare for the unexpected –
People will forget that your baby died very quickly and say/do insensitive things as a result. Expect it and try and have a plan for what you’ll do. Unfortunately, I didn’t!
Best of luck and remember you’ve got this far and you’re still standing. You can do this xxx