Are you wondering when the best time is to return to work after the loss of your baby? Or how you can possibly focus on your job when you are in the middle of such a huge life change?
Returning to work after a pregnancy loss or stillbirth is often another thing that is dreaded in the days or weeks after. There are always thoughts of "what if everyone feels uncomfortable around me?" or "what if they ask how my baby is doing?". Depending on the stage of your loss there can be different circumstances that you may be worried about. Did your co-workers know you were expecting? Are you close to your co-workers or are they just acquaintances? There are many factors that can determine how and when you can or should return, and I have some ideas that may make things a little easier.
Line up a liaison at your workplace
Line up a liaison at your workplace. Someone who can go before you start back to educate your co-workers (or even your boss!) as to how and what they can say or how you would like to be treated. Here is where we all show our individuality- some people (like me!) need to talk about every single detail to anyone who will listen because I process things out loud. Other people want to not have a word uttered and to go about their day as if nothing had happened. I doubt that the second choice is really possible especially if you work in a small setting and have people there who care about you. Most people are compassionate and will want to be supportive but probably don't know how or what to say. I have a free tool for you to download that has some great ideas about what others in your life can say and do to be supportive in a way that is actually helpful. Having a friend at work distributes this information along with your wishes of how you would like to be received can make the thoughts of returning to the workplace so much easier.
Ask for what you need
Ask for a couple of extra breaks in the day. Ask for permission to go to a quiet space for a moment or two if needed to gather your thoughts. Ask for grace if you seem unfocused or unable to make decisions. Ask for a lighter schedule to ease back into your normal schedule. Again, this will depend on how far along you were and how much you have shared with them, as well as how much physical recovery you are left to navigate. The good news is that many companies are recognizing the impact pregnancy loss has on their workplace productivity and are offering more time off for leave. It is really OK to ask for what you need and it is actually necessary since we are living in a society that is so uncomfortable dealing with this type of loss that they don't know how to treat women (and men) suffering from a baby loss. We never know what or when something will trigger us. It could be something small like a certain word, a photo, or something big like a co-worker's pregnancy announcement.
I was a hairstylist at the time I suffered the loss of my twin girls. I had a c-section to deliver them and had two little boys to care for so I took 5-6 weeks off until I was anxious to see my clients and began working again a few hours at a time. It was a rollercoaster and draining as I felt like I was telling my story over and over (remember how I process things out loud?). While most of the time it was great to connect with people who cared for me, it was also hard when they said things that triggered me in their well-meaning way, or I would just have a thought creep in that could take me out. I knew then that there was a mission brewing within me to educate others on how to treat and talk to those going through a pregnancy loss or stillbirth like I was. I wish I had something like this at the time to print out and hang on my door for all who entered to see and learn from.
Find a coach to help you process it
I know... you are saying that I am a coach so, of course, I would say that but hang on- here is why I truly believe it. This is the thing I didn't know about so I didn't do it right away but if I had it would have changed my life and saved me years of self-hatred and suffering. We are not meant to navigate this alone, and having someone by your side who has been there to help you through the day-to-day and week-to-week struggles is truly invaluable as you are trying to get back to a "normal" life again.
Women (and men) who suffer a loss often have a PTSD response. I mean, we were planning on spending the rest of our lives with this person, no matter how tiny, that is now gone. It is a huge cause of anxiety and depression and a leading source of divorce among couples who suffer a loss, yet we are encouraged to keep it to ourselves in order to preserve others' comfort levels. It is no wonder we are distracted not only at work but in every area of our lives. Some of my clients report wanting to leave or change their career altogether because it has given them such a different outlook on their life, regardless of how many years ago their loss occurred. During my years as a business coach, I noticed that my clients who had a pregnancy loss at some point in their past struggled with self-confidence which took a huge toll on their business. As a business owner myself, I felt a lack of confidence or belief that I could be successful and I had a hard time setting goals or dreaming about my future because I knew what it felt like to have your future plans change in an instant. Losing a baby definitely changes the way you view your future and how you choose to spend it is something that needs to be worked on with a professional.
Coaching helps you find the blocks that are keeping you from being happy or successful and allows you to feel the feelings that are associated with it and create a new outcome. I had no idea that my struggles in my business were coming from my loss but as I dug deep and worked through the residual feelings I had about my body and self-confidence as well as my outlook on life and my future I could see that I was really shortchanging myself. I was telling myself things like "my life was over" and "all I had to look forward to now was my own death" so it is no wonder I wasn't feeling fulfilled in my work or anything else in my life for that matter. I had coaches who challenged me to step out of my box and look at a different future and dare to dream and who held me accountable to make small changes that added up to create a whole new life in a way that honored my babies.
I offer free weekly coaching sessions where women and their families join in to get their questions answered and start the process of realizing that their life doesn't have to forever feel hopeless and empty. They can gain wisdom and strength from hearing others' stories and from my guidance and advice while I challenge them to take small steps toward healing. From there if they choose I offer options to meet in a smaller, more intimate group or to have customized, personalized one on one sessions with me where we dial in on exactly what will help them move the needle toward recovering, feeling better, and healing faster while they re-create their future they can be excited about again. I also offer pregnancy coaching for women who suffered a loss and would like to experience the most empowered, worry-free pregnancy possible and coaching for anyone at any stage of their loss who would like to discover the impact their loss is taking on their life and is are ready to make a change. Download my free e-book "10 Questions You Ask Yourself When You Lose Your Baby" and contact me at jen@Jennifersenncoaching.com for more information or to set up a free support session.