We are not sick; we are sad.

A peer blog sparked the never-ending question of, “How long is long enough to grieve?” We chuckle when we hear it because we ask ourselves, “Are we on a step system or something? Should we cover our faces with a mask, like a child, and hide from the world?” It brought me back to the days of struggling with returning to work following the death of B. I specifically recall trying to get additional time home, in order to help my eldest child adjust to his first days back at school. I used some days owed to me from work.  However, I was then told that any additional time off would have to be prepared through paperwork, specifically the Family Medical and Leave Act. Well, of course, I was shocked to find, from FMLA, that I couldn’t take time off for the death of my child. Really? Really.

So, what does one do? I was told to see a doctor. The doctor then had to “label” me in order to agree with the FMLA terms. Thus, I put my family first, rather than pride. I marched into the doctor’s office and said, “My child died. I don’t know why. Now, work says you need to see me in order for me to stay home. Oh yeah, and you need to sign this paperwork.” I was embarrassed; I didn’t want any more people to know B’s death than necessary at the time. So here I am, telling the doctor that delivered B, that he died. I didn’t have answers. She said in order to get approved for FMLA, I had to claim I was “clinically depressed.” Really? Really. She said, “Here is some medication. Are you extremely depressed?” I took a step back. Was I? No. Did this label bother me? Yes.

It angered me. It embarrassed me. Why? I was not depressed. I was SAD. My child died; I was SAD. Plain and simple. I replied to the doctor, “Wouldn’t you feel sad? Is this something new in the world of medicine? I simply want time to be with my eldest son. I want time to be alone with “me.” What makes me “clinically” depressed?” She didn’t respond. Later that day, I faxed in my paperwork that read, “Cannot function with daily work habits. Must receive further treatment. Suffering from clinical depression…lost her child.” Done.

Granted, I understand some people are clinically depressed. People do need medication and/ or therapy.  Many of us have been there. Others do well without anything and God bless. Everyone is different. What bothers me most is that my child died, and the government felt it was not important enough to let me stay home. That I needed a “label” because of what had happened. Yet, if we give birth or adopt, we can stay home. Why not when we bury a child?

There are petitions now in place in which people are trying to make such changes to the FMLA. Thank goodness. I do not think we are sick. We do not need a label for losing a child. No one can tell anyone how long is long enough. What you should, or shouldn’t feel. What you need, or don’t need. Each story is different; each loss is a loss that is unique to the individual. What the government and some others around us may lack is compassion and empathy. Please do not tell us how to feel, act, speak, or move. Let us simply be and give us respect.

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8 responses to “We are not sick; we are sad.

  1. I agree – I was very grateful I was still entitled to maternity leave, if I had to of gone back to work I would not have had the time I needed and Im sure the pressure of returning to work would have caused depression.

  2. This is a petition to change the FMLA to include bereavement of a child. Please sign it and forward it along!

    http://www.petition2congress.com/3937/modify-family-medical-leave-act-1993/

  3. I was fortunate when my son died that I had built up a lot of “sick” leave and was able to take off one month. I’ve known bereaved parents who had to return to work in two weeks. Mary Lincoln took to her bed for one year when her son died, but she had the financial luxury to do that (I wouldn’t recommend that). Your point about FMLA being used for losing a child is a valid one. I remember an acquaintance asking me after six years “if I still missed my son.” Hello, heck yes! She had children, so I didn’t understand how she could ask the question. I will always miss my son, there will always be an ache inside my heart where he is concerned. Whether people chose to call that grieving, or mourning, doesn’t matter. I now can have fun, enjoy life, and talk about my son’s life to others with pride, because I know that is how David would want me to live. But I will never get over his loss.

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