Picking up the pieces, then breaking all over again

I haven’t written since Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.

I just had two good days. I didn’t even cry once.

Then, I realized it’s just because I’ve been distracting myself, trying not to think about what happened.

Today, it’s been 2 weeks since my surgery, 2 weeks since we found out our pregnancy was ectopic, 2 weeks since we lost our baby girl.

It feels like it’s been forever.

Today, I also had my first session with a grief counsellor. I woke up dreading it. I knew it would all come flooding back. I cried all morning before I went to the session. And then, I was a puffy-eyed, red-nosed, snot-filled mess when I left her office.

She was kind and listened well. She sits on the Perinatal Loss Board at our hospital and offered to take my feedback to them. She also told me she doesn’t think I’m ready emotionally to go back to work. She recommended I take the full 4 weeks that the doctor allotted to me, and even consider taking more.

We talked a lot about my job. I don’t talk about it much on here, but it all changed since we got home from our IVF. My wonderfully supportive boss quit. The project I am on got postponed. I was reassigned to a new role. I don’t even know what my full role and responsibilities are yet as this transition happened 2 weeks before our loss. Although it’s a promotion, I’m dreading the thought of more responsibility and stress.  I have a new boss. He knew nothing about our situation before my surgery. Since then, I’ve sent him two emails and had one phone call. I told him I would be off work for 2 weeks. Then, I extended it to 3. What will he think if I ask for more? 

It makes me angry that grief is unrecognised or seen as weakness – or at least that’s how it feels. 

Like I’ve said before, recovering from surgery is easy. It’s the broken heart that needs time to heal.

The grief counsellor let me borrow books from their library. Tonight, I read Still: A collection of honest artwork and writings from the heart of a grieving mother. It was written by Stephanie Page Cole, founder of the Sweet Pea Project.

On page 13, Stephanie writes, “People will tell you that time heals. Those people are liars. The pain doesn’t go away, you just build up your tolerance to it. It’s like lifting weights. If you try to lift 500 pounds, it is going to crush you. But if you lift it everyday of your life, it is going to get easier and easier to do, and eventually you are going to lift it without breaking a sweat.

I guess that’s all I can hope for: continued strength and tolerance.

My to-do’s after counselling are to consider how I would like to approach dealing with my grief and decide how much time I need off work.

I have some counselling coverage through my health plan. I would consider going back to this woman. She has also suggested the local Miscarriage Support Group, but it only meets 1x a month. I would also like to work with my fertility coach again. My coach and I have a call tomorrow to discuss options.

As for the time off, I don’t even know what to do. Some friends say go back and relish in the distraction of work. I am not the kind of person to shove my feelings down and ignore them though. I’m scared of not being strong enough to lead a team of people right now. I’m scared of emotionally breaking down when the first person asks, “How are you?“.

I’m currently in the process of getting my short term disability claim processed. I have yet to hear from a case manager, but another friend recommended I should see what they say (meaning how much time off they will pay me for based on my diagnosis) before I make my decision and re-inform my boss.

If doing what is right for you is a sign of strength, why do I feel so vulnerable right now? 

Am I just delaying the inevitable by taking more time off? Or do I rightfully deserve a break after everything we have been through since August? How much time would you take off it was available to you?

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23 thoughts on “Picking up the pieces, then breaking all over again

  1. I’m glad you had the appointment with the grief counsellor and that it went well, she sounds good.

    I don’t think you are delaying the inevitable if you were to take more time off. If you CAN (as in you have the sick leave etc) then I most certainly would use it. I think it is a really personal decision, and it depends on your work / how you deal with things. Me personally and in my work situation, I would probably just have to see how I go. If you don’t feel emotionally ready then you probably aren’t. Don’t beat yourself up about it, just wait until you’re feeling a little stronger. Each day at a time xx

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  2. Ugh. I know the grief or my variation of it so well. I have never taken a single day off work other than my surgery days in 9 lost pregnancies. I do not recommend that (keeping busy has its pros as a coping mechanism. Also has enormous cons. Email if you want to chat more on this). I have been planting sufficient seeds for months that if it happens with pregnancy #10 I will ask my doctor for help and apply for medical leave. That said, every one of us (female and male, individually) processes our grief and nurtures our healing differently. You are (whether you feel it in any given moment or just feel lost) the expert on you. I hear you saying you are not ready for work. I think the advice to find out what’s covered is sound but insurers can take a long time doing their coverage opinions. You may have to decide before then. Can you financially afford a longer leave? If so, what harm could come from you taking that time? A lot can happen in two weeks emotionally. If those extra two weeks will ruin your prospects with this employer, it may not be the right employer long-term in any event. It took a lot for me to leave a former family-unfriendly workplace but it was the best decision I could have made. I owe that decision to my only successful pregnancy to date and the soul searching I did as a result of it. I’m not suggesting you resign (DO NOT QUIT! At least not before you run out the benefits to which you are entitled). Perhaps this rumination is presenting you a crossroads, however? I hope you can identify and have the luxury to choose the path that speaks with authenticity to your needs as a mother, a woman and a professional – not necessarily but perhaps in that order. I am sending you much love and as many heartfelt hugs as you will accept, my friend.

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  3. I’m currently on leave as a result of our most recent pregnancy loss. My family doctor suggested that I take at least the semester off of teaching (same kids- same stress and triggers), but to do it in 12 week increments so we can do reevals to check in. My work is super stressful, and was not supportive at all when I started miscarrying and gave me grief about taking a whole TWO DAYS off. It’s been 6.5 weeks since I started miscarrying, and 5 weeks since my D&C. At about 3 weeks, the shock of the loss wore off. At 4 weeks, I started to grieve in a productive way. I am not healed by distraction, so I much prefer to deal with grief head-on. Being at work would have pushed me into a depression with major unaddressed grief floating under the surface. Having time to go with the flow of my physical healing, emotional fluctuations, and psychological mending is what I need. I would recommend you figure out how long you can financially afford to be off for, and give yourself that time.

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    • And actively deal with your grieving- nourish your body with good food, definitely see a therapist/counsellor as many times as you can (if you’re like me, you feel guilty about unloading your grief onto friends, which means you’re not talking about it like you should be), be physically active, go pamper yourself, get lots of sleep, and etc.

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  4. I am proud of you for writing and seeing the counselor, that takes brave vulnerability. Asking for what we want and need is vulnerable. It is scary because there are times we won’t or can’t get it, but we still ask. Vulnerability takes guts. Only you, and maybe those closest to you, know what you need right now but mostly just you. Time and work to heal, how long? I’m not sure any of us get that answer. I am so sorry you are going through this. It is so hard and brutal and unfair. I’m thinking of you and am here if you need anything!

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  5. I think if you feel like you need more time off, then take it. Your heart is valuable too, so give some time if that’s what it needs. Hopefully your new boss will understand that not only did you go through surgery but that you’re also facing the grief involved with losing a child.

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  6. My counselor told me not to go back to work, but I did anyway. The last thing I needed with all of this was to have issues at work.

    It helped me a lot to pour myself into work, and to really use my energy for something productive. I also took a giant trip I had been putting off for years by myself because I had a mandatory 6 months TTC break. I visited a few friends in other states, I drank a lot, I ate sushi and anything pregnant women couldn’t eat. I went zip lining for the first time. I got in a race car. I lived differently after I almost died. I tried really hard to have FUN when TTC was removed and no crying was going to bring my baby or my tube back. It was really nice to have a distraction and in a few months I could see the situation more clearly, be grateful for what I should be thankful for (my life), and grieved in my own way.

    JMO, but sitting at home worrying about it isn’t going to help anyone, and I think work could help you get some perspective. You also do what you have to do, and that means provide for yourself and your future babies, however they come.

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    • Oh, also, if you’re cleared medically, get yourself to the gym. I remember crying at a kickboxing class and I just channeled my hurt and my rage into the class. Exercise made a huge difference to me. It was the only healthy way I could release the pain.

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  7. Grief is such a complicated thing. Even when you get to a point where you think you’ve “dealt with it,” it creeps back up on you when you’re not expecting it. My biggest frustration is that I want my grief to be over. I’m DONE. But it isn’t quite done with me yet.

    One thing I’ll say is listen to yourself. You know what you need, if you can clear away the expectations of you “should” do.

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  8. I guess I don’t really have any fabulous words of wisdom for you, but I will say this: if your boss can’t understand why you need time off to heal, maybe that isn’t the right job for you. If you don’t take enough time to heal your heart and mind, you probably won’t be very useful at work anyway. Glad you found a counselor you feel comfortable with, you should definitely continue if you feel it helped. Hope you find peace soon.

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  9. I know this is a difficult position to be in, and the last thing you want to have to be worrying about right now is work. My very best work friend (I call her my work wife) has been out on short term disability for anxiety/depression for 4 weeks. It was only going to be 3 weeks initially, but I found out this week that they’ve decided to give her another 7 weeks, so she won’t be back until December. It was an impossible decision for her to make. This is her team’s busiest time of year, and she has had SO MUCH stress and anxiety over what the repercussions of her time away will be. Regardless, I can tell you that the time away has worked WONDERS for her. The dark circles under her eyes are gone, and she looks so much younger and healthier. Every time we talk, I remind her that the time she takes for healing right now will trickle down and affect the rest of her life in a positive way regardless of what happens with her job. There are lots of ways to earn a living, but you only get one life.

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  10. Oh, how I understand your thoughts right now!! I took me until our 4th pregnancy before I told anyone at work about our 3 previous losses. With our first 3 losses, I went to work, every single day except surgery dates. I only missed partial days for appointments and ultrasounds. It was hard, really freaking hard to do it. I did it for the exact reason you said in your post – “It makes me angry that grief is unrecognised or seen as weakness.” I work in a very male dominated profession and I couldn’t deal with the being looked at as weak and not pulling my own weight.
    In the end, when I told most people at work about our 4th pregnancy asap and our 3 losses, as I went to reduced hours the day we found out we were pregnant. When I told everyone what I’d been through, a few women suspected, and all the men appeared shocked and supportive in there own ways. That said, I didn’t give them much option but to be supportive as I made it very clear to them that I could not work. In fact, I have not gone back to work since our 4th miscarriage started – for me, I know this last 5 months without full time work has been a wonderful experience – I’m fortunate that we could afford it, but I honestly can say I needed this time to focus on our 5th loss, new medical appointments in the US, big decisions, etc. I just couldn’t do everything and that was really hard for me to admit (and truthfully something I still struggle with), but I know taking some time has been the right decision for me.
    I guess the reason I am sharing all of this, is just to say, I understand, it’s a shit situation and only you and your husband can make this decision. Infertility and miscarriage is really just a horrible situation that the fortunate people who don’t experience it cannot understand, which often makes work situations so hard to deal with because most people simply don’t get it. Best of luck with this decision, and good for you for seeing a grief counsellor – I do hope it helped to talk about everything!

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  11. it sounds like you’re headed in the right direction and i’m glad you were able to meet with a grief counselor. I think the time off everyone takes is dependent on the individual. do what feels right to you. don’t worry about the new boss or what other people think. at the end of the day it just matters what you and DH think and what you’re going through. take care of yourself and know we are all here for you. xooxo

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  12. I’m always in favor of taking off as much time as possible to recover…but that’s me…I don’t know how much anxiety it would cause you to ask for 4 weeks. If you think you can do it without feeling too guilty, perhaps go for it, the full 4. That would give you time to rest deeply, as well time to perhaps go on a short trip somewhere, perhaps somewhere you’ve never been. I did not have the option of taking extended time off throughout my losses—not until the last one, when I left work altogether. But I did manage to do long weekend trips to places that made me feel better—getting out of my house/town/state did the most remarkable (and fast) healing. I hate that you are going through this and wish you peace, peace, peace.

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  13. I am in the “only took off for surgery” club. I even had the majority of my miscarriage in the bathroom at work haha (but not really funny). I would have liked a few more days off, but we get almost no personal or sick time so I just went in and went through the motions for a while. On the other hand, I DO like distractions to get me through my grief. So after the first few days I think it was better for me to be at work, living my “normal” life for eight hours every day. That’s a lot of words to say that everyone is different and you just have to do what is best for you. If you’re feeling like another week or two will get you over that hump of being able to deal with work again, I think you should definitely take it. I would also wholeheartedly recommend continuing to see a counselor. It has been invaluable to me to have someone help me process my grief and anxiety. I’m sending (and have been sending) loads of comfort and peace your way. You will get through (not over) this! Xoxo.

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  14. Processing grief is so personal and it’s understandable that you feel vulnerable…you’re healing and your heart is broken. Speaking from my past mistakes in not dealing fully with my own grief, I would encourage you to do whatever eases the heartache, even if it’s just for a moment. If that’s going back to work – do it. If it’s not going back – take the time you need to heal. There is no right or wrong way for you to navigate the hollow feeling after a loss. It comes in waves of pain and ebbs of sorrow that sneak up on you when you least expect it. Be gentle and patient with yourself. And above all, do what feels right in your heart.

    I wish bereavement time was offered for miscarriages. Hoping that you find what’s best for you and know that you’re in my thoughts.

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  15. I am so glad that you are seeking and getting support. I have been thinking about you a lot and I wish there was something I could do to help more. Knowing that I have not been in your situation, my opinion is that if you feel that you need or want time off, you should take it. NO ONE knows exactly what you are going through except for you. ❤ There are a million different ways to grieve but only you know what feels right for you at this very moment. You are allowed to take care of you no matter what that means. You deserve to take care of you. You are loved! ❤

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  16. My heart goes out to you hon. I took a month off after we lost Holdon, but then pressed on with all of my subsequent losses because I work for myself and I was scared I’d lose my small client base if I wasn’t available. Having said that, working for myself from home does allow me some flexibility and if I was having a hard day, I would take the day off. It also helps that I don’t deal with my clients face to face that often. I can completely understand not wanting to see colleagues and deal with questions right now. It really sounds to me like you need the extra time and I hope with your counselor’s recommendation, you will get the short term leave you need. Hugs hon ❤

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  17. I wish that the importance of healing from emotional pain was more recognized in the work place. I know it is a totally different situation but in 2005, I unexpectedly lost my 19 year old brother. Besides the time I had to take off for the funeral, I did not miss any additional days of work. I was afraid of what may happen. This was a mistake. I also do not think there is a one size fits all protocol for healing. Different people take different paths before they are ready to resume work or other activities. You deserve to be able to take the time needed to process your emotions and start the recovery process. I have been thinking about your story a lot and it has brought me to tears. I am so glad you are creating a dialogue on the importance of managing the emotional outcomes of loss.

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  18. I am not sure how I missed this post of yours. My heart just breaks for you and I have tears coming down my face. I think you should take as much time off as you need. I kinda think that you will all of sudden know when you are ready and that may be two weeks from now…four weeks from now…or maybe two months. You have been through so much and you need to give yourself freedom to heal for however long and in whatever way. I also praise you for seeing a counselor. That’s not always easy to do and I think the more you visit one, the better it will be. My cousin saw one twice a week for almost a month and then she went down to weekly…then eventually bi-weekly. It took time and it was a slow process but she was glad she didn’t rush through her grief.

    Sending you hugs! xo

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