Heigh- Ho Heigh- Ho It’s Back To Work I Go!
Well how did that happen? Eight months have suddenly gone by since Billy died in what feels like a puff of smoke and now, it is time to undertake the most difficult thing I have faced since the very early days of processing the death of my son and planning a funeral for our baby.
Work. A necessary evil for most of us, we’ve all got bills to pay and a roof over our heads to sustain so holding down a job is a crucial part of most of our lives.
I really do enjoy my job and work as a civil servant in a wonderful organisation where I have a really good work life balance and have lots of perks such as flexible working, flexitime and the ability to work from home several times per work. I have nice work colleagues, don’t live too far away from the office so the commute is not too bad (I get chauffeured by Mr Protein and dropped right off at the door, can’t complain!) and the work itself is fairly interesting. I am lucky compared to some people who hate their jobs and work in unpleasant working environments (hey I have been there too, I used to work in the soulless world of marketing where the hours are long, there aren’t many thanks and you’re only as good as your last campaign and the working environment can be pretty toxic. I did hone my writing skills in that world though and I did enjoy being creative every day and it definitely toughened me up being in that world). If I was still working as a marketing executive I don’t think I would return right now. I am so grateful to be going back to a supportive team and pleasant organisation but I am still pretty stressed out about it.
For the past eight months I have only had to focus on getting through each day – that’s it. The biggest thing I have had to juggle is what we are going to have for dinner that day for the most part. Getting through the very sad days has been tough but on those days it really hasn’t mattered if I have lay in bed until 1pm staring blankly at my (beautiful House of Hackney!) wall. I didn’t have to worry about doing anything else that day – there were no expectations from anyone other than Mr Protein who expects a wholesome home cooked meal when he gets home (exaggeration as Mr P more than pulls his weight in the kitchen!). But you get what I am saying. When you’re taking the time off to deal with the death of your baby, the only thing you need to worry about are small things, there are no expectations placed on you by anyone else.
I am very fortunate that I have a very generous maternity package with my job which has allowed me a long time off work, most of it on full pay. I needed this time; it has really helped me to process and deal with this terrible unprecedented journey we have found ourselves on. At first I thought I should try and return to work earlier than I have, one person actually made a comment which I took as a dig which made me feel a bit like I was taking the piss being on maternity leave without my baby. But just read those words back… ”on maternity leave without my baby”…. If you are facing this concept then bloody hell you have been through the biggest trauma any mother could ever go through, you are dealing with more in your life than most people will ever have to experience. Your life has changed forever in the blink of an eye! So yes you are entitled to take that time off work and you absolutely should not be made to feel guilty for it. For a start the law is on your side, so does it really matter what anyone else thinks? No. Balls to anyone who judges you for it. Walk a mile in my shoes etc.
I did start making plans to return earlier though, I was planning on returning after Christmas initially and I ended up being completely stressed and anxious by it and knew the time was not right for me at that point so I decided to take the full period I was entitled to on full pay and then topped it up slightly with annual leave. It has been hard processing these last few weeks off work, I won’t lie. I now fully understand why so many people end up handing their notice in and not returning to their former jobs after they have gone through this. In all honesty, I considered it myself for a long time. I was truly thinking of handing in my notice but the reality is I do love my job and I would have to get another job somewhere else and I just don’t think that would have made things any easier in the end.
As my return to work date looms I have really had a tough time the last few weeks. Many things have happened over the past four weeks or so that I won’t go into here but the fear of returning to work and having to juggle deadlines, dealing with people again and managing a work load has certainly felt stressful. I am doing a phased return and then will be doing condensed hours for a period which will be really beneficial to me and allow me to continue to work on my mental health and ensure that I am the best version of myself that I can be.
I will do a follow up post about what has helped me with my return to work, how it has gone and offer any practical advice once I am (hopefully!) back into the swing of things at work. I know what a big deal returning to work is, trust me, part of me just wants to run away from it but the reality is that this is the last (albeit) biggest piece of the puzzle in trying to return to some sort of normality and moving forwards a little more.
There is no doubt that this is a really difficult step for most of us. I don’t think I have spoken to one person who has found this easy. Even though Billy isn’t here, this time off work has been my time to grieve, my Billy time. I write about him, think about him and spend a lot of my day consumed with him, even though he isn’t here with me. I feel sad that I have to move forwards and worry about leaving him behind. I know he will always be part of our family and I just need to find a way to move forwards but take him with me. But never moving on as someone recently said. People need to choose their words more carefully I think! But hey – we all know this by now!
I hope that anyone who is facing a return to work has received the necessary support from their employer to do so. There is practical advice on the Sands website for employers and if you do feel that this is lacking for you, my advice would be to send the link from the Sands website to your HR department or line manager if you feel that the support you are receiving is lacking – not in a passive aggressive way, it genuinely could be very helpful for them, particularly if they have never dealt with this previously.
My work has been wonderful and has made this transition smooth for me so far. I have met with two senior colleagues regularly for coffee since Billy died which has been really useful and feels less daunting returning due to this. I know that I am going to be in safe hands, one colleague text me the other day saying “I know this is really hard for you but you’re amongst friends and colleagues who can’t wait to have you back.” That was so lovely and I do know that as far as going back to a job when your baby has died, I couldn’t really ask for a better environment to be going back to.
I will write another post soon with all of the practical things that have helped me and will reflect on those first few weeks back at work as I know that this is probably a high cause of anxiety for many people.
Thanks for reading.