I’ve lost my daughter – but I have to go back to work.
I’ve lost my son – but I have to go back to work.
You have to do it. At some point, you will have to do it. I count myself very lucky. I work for an amazing employer; Wesco Aircraft. The day after Poppy died I’d not even thought about work. How could I? My daughter had just died and I was an emotional wreck. I’ve since heard of dads saying they had to go back the next day. How awful.
My boss texted me the morning after Poppy’s death. He simply said: Don’t even worry about work. Your paternity leave has been canceled and you’re on compassionate leave for as long as you need. I was taken aback. An act of amazing kindness after such a gut punch from the world. A wave of relief came over me. Even though I’d not thought about it, I was suddenly aware how it helped that I wouldn’t have to go back to work immediately.
I could grieve. I can be with my wife, the mother of my baby girl. Our daughter who has been ripped away from us. I wasn’t going to have to leave my wife in our darkest moment. I can be with her, comfort her while she comforts me.
For weeks work never crossed my mind again, apart from the odd text. Then I started to search the internet for other dads that had to return to work. I couldn’t really find much, hence why I feel I need to share my journey back to work. But I did find one post online that struck me. For the life of me now I can’t find it to share. What this Dad did is something I followed and something I advise any father going back to work after losing a child to do.
Write an email to your colleagues.
Wow, I thought, I’d never considered doing that. This father explained how you can say you are coming back to work, try to help your colleagues know how you feel, and what you want to achieve by going back to work.
So I did. I wrote an email. I expressed my thanks for their kind words and messages. I explained I would be returning to work on a phased return. I couldn’t just go back full-time. How could I? I can’t focus on work for 8 hours because it’s a struggle to focus on anything. Most importantly I then explained that I want people to mention Poppy. She existed. She was here for 3 days. She is still my daughter. I’m heartbroken she isn’t here but I feel happy talking about her. Yes, I’m going to cry but please don’t take that as a reason not to mention her name.
It set out my intentions and I really feel that it helped when I got back to work. People knew that I wanted Poppy to be talked about. Why would I not? She is and always will be my baby girl. Mentioning her name wouldn’t remind me she had died but reminded me that she mattered.
6 weeks after Poppy died I took the drive to work.
It was only going to be a few hours. God, how can I do this?
It was the first time I’d been in the car by myself since driving into Leeds at 2 am to be with my baby girl at the Leeds General Infirmary. I was driving the same roads I’d come home on when Emily was in labour.
I cried the second I pulled into the car park and dreaded that walk in. Were people going to stare at me? Would I hear whispers of “That’s the guy whose baby died.”
I snuck in the back and quietly sat at my desk. I’d made it in. My team I work with were amazing and slowly over the next few days people came and saw me. Some just said it was nice to see me back. Others offered a simple comforting hand on the shoulder while passing on the stairs. Others asked all about Poppy, asked to look at pictures.
She’d made an impact on them and they’d never got to meet her. I think and still feel that my little girl in amazing.
Being back was hard.
My brain wasn’t wired for this and all it was focused on was getting through the day without breaking down into tears. I still think it’s doing that now. No matter how many days go by, I still want to cry a million tears for Poppy.
Slowly I got back into the swing of it. It’s like you have to retrain your brain to do this work thing. I count myself very lucky I had no real pressure on me. I’ve spoken to other dads and they have had to be back days after losing their baby. Not just be back but be working like nothing had happened. You just can’t do that.
I’m so pleased the government are poised to bring in new laws to give parents an extra 2 weeks off. That still might not be enough but it will help people who weren’t as lucky as me.
I can’t thank everyone at Wesco enough for how they looked after Emily and myself.
About the Author:
My name is Pete and I’m a Dad that has experienced baby loss and the joy of having a rainbow baby. I want this to hopefully help other Dads who are going through the same heartbreaking situation. Find me on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/