sharing your stories and remembering your children
By: Nick Carrington EPLA Editor
Miscarriage is heartbreaking. Parents lose a child and will never see him or her smile, climb trees, ride rollercoasters, or go to prom. As a society, we struggle to affirm the pain this causes, even though studies show that parents grieve miscarriages as long and as intensely as other deaths. Our failure to recognize this grief has led to numerous challenges, including in the workplace.
Additionally women and families are left to navigate this grief while experiencing the physical process of a miscarriage. A woman might choose to deliver the baby naturally, which is a process like any birth that has no clear time table and might take weeks to begin. Without appropriate leave a woman could find herself delivering the decease child in the work place, even in the case of an early miscarriage. If she does not want to wait for a natural miscarriage she might choose a D&C procedure, which like any surgical procedure requires time and healing for recovery. Our failure to recognize the grief and physical process of a miscarriage has led to numerous challenges, including in the workplace.
When parents lose a child in the womb, they often get little or no time off work to recover. If they do miss work days, loss parents frequently do so without pay under the “Family and Medical Leave Act” (FMLA). Bereavement legislation is getting a new look in Europe, but miscarriages are typically ignored.
Families may not have the luxury to take leave without pay if they have other mouths to feed. The prolonged grief of miscarriage can affect their job performance, especially in the days immediately following the loss of their child.
Our workplaces need to recognize this and respond accordingly. Here are a few ideas to help employers navigate a difficult situation.
1. Discuss with your Employee How Much Time They Need Off
Loss parents likely need time to deal with the physical and emotional turmoil that miscarriage brings. The amount of time away will depend on the person. Obviously, there should be limits to how many days an employee can take; organizations can’t be shorthanded forever. But employers should be generous with the understanding that a family has just lost a son or daughter. Those wounds do not heal with Band-Aids.
2. Consider Easing Loss Parents Back into Work
If possible, create a temporary work structure that allows an employee to contribute but takes away some stress. This may mean allowing the bereaved to work from home a few days a week or giving them important but low stakes assignments. Loss parents will want to contribute, but they may not be ready to immediately begin making big decisions right away.
3. Show the Organization Cares
When parents lose a child, they frequently want others to remember their children and recognize the magnitude of that loss. Employers and coworkers should consider sending flowers, a card, or other small gifts to show they care about the bereaved. Loss parents need support from multiple places, and a little thoughtfulness from an employer can help by making them feel like more family than indentured servants.
Compassion That’s Not Compelled
While no legislation exists that forces organizations to give paid leave to loss parents, we urge employers to consider the pain of miscarriage and respond with compassion. Parents mourning a miscarriage will usually grieve as they do other deaths in the family. They could use a moment to breathe before diving headfirst into the waters of everyday life. A little compassion can make a big difference.
Nick Carrington is an Editor for the EPLA and Assistant Professor of Professional Writing at Cedarville University.