Still Standing

Returning to Work After Loss

I’d imagined going back to work. Fondly daydreaming. Shyly proud, showing off my twins.

Returning to work after you’ve lost a baby can be a difficult time. One moment you are in your office, in your school, with a pregnant belly just starting to show. Or full term, walking out of your workplace bearing baby gifts? Or with exciting news to tell of the baby you expected in seven or eight months time.

Or perhaps you yearn for children and that longing is cruelly unfulfilled, month after month. But you are a parent in your heart already.

Yet, here you find yourself, going back to work, to your office, school, hospital. Negotiating territory that appears superficially familiar but where everything is suddenly at a strange angle, not as you expected or wished. Everything is the same and yet, impossibly different.

I dreaded going back to work. Even the thought of driving into the car park made me feel ill. When I left work for what turned out to be the final time, I was so happy. Still pregnant. Both my babies still alive. I never dreamt my girls would be born, so very early, that weekend or that one of my babies would die.

My husband was desperate to get back to work. To ‘normal’ life.

It may be a challenge for you, as it was for me. Wondering what people will say. How you should react. Worrying if you might cry. But, as with so much in life, the anticipation can often be worse than the actual event.

I can only tell you what worked for me.

You may want to arrange a brief visit before you return to work. The first time I drove in to work, I sat in the car park, felt ill, and cried and cried. But when I had dried my eyes and walked in, I didn’t have to face an entire working day. I only had to drink a cup of coffee, make small talk and leave. And I could just about manage that.

You might want to consider writing an email to colleagues, sharing as much as you feel comfortable with. Some people may ask for details, some people may never mention your baby at all.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t underestimate how tiring grief is, how hard it is to maintain focus on your work, particularly if you have a job such as teaching or the medical profession where there is nowhere to hide and you have to deal with children or patients.

If it is possible to excuse yourself for a few minutes, if you begin to feel overwhelmed, take advantage of that space. Go for a brief walk. Gather your thoughts and regain your composure. If you have a sympathetic colleague, make use of them and see if they can relieve the pressure when you need to take a break.

It’s hard, particularly so when co-workers announce pregnancies or bring their newborns in for a visit. Please remember that, although we may not be there in person, this community is here. We are holding you up in spirit, standing behind you at your desk, as you teach your class, treat your patients, deliver your lecture, cook that meal, go about whatever task you are completing, for love, for money. We are standing behind you, willing you on. Good luck.

If you have any tips or tricks to ease the anxiety of returning to work after the loss of a baby, or to help to negotiate the world of work whilst dealing with infertility,  please do share them here.