grief & loss, Trauma of it all, Uncategorized

The Privilege of Taking Time Off

When you’re going through something, sometimes the last thing you want to do is go into a full time or part time job. Your brain just isn’t there, your focus is off, you may be emotional, edgy or distant. Either way, the last thing on your mind is the grind of a 9-5 so to speak. If you’ve had a loss, most jobs offer some sort of bereavement time with varying amounts of days depending on how close (or far?) the loss is from you. Was the loss your spouse, your parent, your child, a distant family member, etc.? Those things factor into the amount of time (at some jobs) that you are allowed to take off with pay, without using whatever PTO (Paid Time Off) you’ve accrued.  People often say, “take the time you need, we’ll manage”. Well, some employers say that. Others are like, “so anyway, when are you going to be coming back? We need to cover this shift.”

I want to sound off about this bullshit bereavement time. First, I’ll say I am grateful that there is SOMETHING offered to allow people to grieve without worrying about getting paid. That is a privilege, not a right (even though it should be). Ok, I’ve got the gratitude out the way and now I can give the real. So.. why tf are there a certain amount of days allotted depending on how “close” you were to the loved one that passed? Why tf do I get more or less days depending on that?! The HR department has no idea about what the nature of my relationship was with my lost loved one(s) so why do they get to decide how much time I can use? Also, I think it’s horribly invasive that I have to disclose to HR who exactly died instead of just being able to say I have had a significant loss and need some time off.  When I lost my daughters, no one even said anything to me about bereavement time at first. I knew nothing about it. Maybe that’s my naivete but it is what it is. I ended up using sick days for the three days of work I missed while in the hospital. I didn’t find out until the following week that I was able to take 5 days of bereavement time and my spouse didn’t find out either so she ended up having to go to work the morning after I gave birth/the last day we would get to hold our daughters. How horrible is THAT!? Idk how she was even able to do that but when the choice is between grieving and paying your bills, sometimes you have to make hard choices.

Why aren’t people allowed up to 2 weeks at minimum for bereavement time? Sometimes it takes a week or so to even get the funeral or memorial arrangements set up so five days isn’t necessarily enough to handle all of that and then show up at work ready to take on the next project. To be frank, f*ck your project. Nobody cares about that when their grieving the loss of someone important to them. And if it’s a perinatal loss, your body is still doing all kinds of things after five days. For me, my milk came in and I was horribly engorged. On one hand, *high five* to my boobs for making all that milk for my babies!  On the other hand, that I was so sore, leaking and literally sitting with my boobs in bowls of warm water everyday to help release some of the milk without expressing so much that they kept producing more milk. How was I supposed to do that at work? I gave birth on Wednesday, 6/7/17. If I used my “five days of bereavement time” only, that would’ve only brought me to Tuesday of the following week and I was literally soaking a sports bra with my milk at that time. I took off the remainder of that week and came back to work and a couple of days the one after. Honestly, I still wasn’t ready to be back but I felt an obligation because… there was work to do and I knew we were short staffed. I also knew that I didn’t have that much sick time left and I didn’t want to deplete everything in case I needed it later.

Think about that for a minute… think about how much it sucks ass to have to decide to go into work instead of taking care of your mental, spiritual and emotional health because you may “need the time later” or “don’t have any left” and “need the money”. I don’t know about y’all but I’m a working class person. So is my partner. So are most of the people I know. None of us are super rich or wealthy where we can just decide to not go back to work or take more time off without pay if we need to. Some of my encounters with other grieving moms have really shown me that taking time off is a privilege. There are women I have spoken to who say they took off 5 or more weeks. Shoot I WISH! I’d like to still be off from work or be able to say, “I’m not going back to work right now… I’m going to focus only on my healing and other business ventures” but guess what, we can’t afford that ish! Not right now. These bills don’t stop coming, these student loans, rent, car insurance, etc. don’t stop because we’ve had a loss. Even if I go through the arduous process of deferring a payment because of a “hardship”, those bills still come right back around in a month or two.

I’ll leave folx with this: be mindful before you just suggest people “take some time off”. Check your privilege at the door and ask first.  I have a full time job with benefits so I’m able to have PTO but everyone isn’t in this same situation. Also, even if they are, it doesn’t mean the time allotted for “bereavement” is sufficient to grieve in whatever way is most helpful for that person. For those going through this loss themselves, take time where you can, take frequent breaks if you can, set aside time when you get home/off to do something that feeds your soul and find any moment you can to do something that feels right for you. Sending love & light.

2 thoughts on “The Privilege of Taking Time Off”

  1. Ahhh…you always make great points Jeanae! I know your writing is helping a lot of people. I am reading this, and although I have not experience your kind of loss, I was feeling sadness, anger, frustration and all of the emotions of having to deal with the politics of Bereavement time.

    1. It’s really annoying and it shouldn’t be as complicated as it is. There are so many more important things to worry about and it’d be great if jobs helped to make the time easier rather than harder.

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