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How to return to work after a miscarriage

OFFICE STRESS
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Advice for your professional and personal life from other women who have been there, too.

Going through a miscarriage is hard enough in itself, but returning to work afterwards can add to the stress and anguish of an already difficult time. Grief is a process, so gradually returning to work is a process to be handled gently and wisely.

Grieving a miscarriage can make a woman feel like she’s walking all alone, but that’s not the case. Many other women have shared this same experience, each in her own unique circumstances. Some of them offered to (anonymously, understandably) share their insights and experiences below to help other women feel less alone.

Coping strategies from women who know your pain

“My advice is to give yourself time. The thing about going through a miscarriage is you never know when you’re going to think about it and feel absolutely drained and emotional. I would forget what I had gone through and then suddenly remember and it would hit me hard. I felt extreme anxiety going back to work and leaving my partner after I had been attached to him for a week, and I felt vulnerable and scared to be around people that knew or didn’t know what I had gone through. It took me months to feel normal again, and I had to allow myself that time and allow myself to feel sad and also allow myself to enjoy things again. I would also say, going back to work was helpful in some ways, it got me out of my house and out of my funk at least a little bit. There is no handbook for things like this. It is such a devastating and disappointing thing that you never think will happen to you. Having friends and family to support you is key.” – A.P.

“I had a miscarriage, called into work sick on Friday for a D&C and was back to work on Monday. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I didn’t want my co-workers knowing my business. I didn’t want my company knowing I was ‘trying’ for another child. I didn’t want people feeling sympathetic for me. I was fine telling friends, but I didn’t want it to be part of my work life. So, my advice (which I have given to others) is never go alone to an OB appointment. Talk to your spouse about your plan ahead of time. Find a doctor who you are comfortable with. My doctor had to come into the ER on a Friday night to do my D&C. Plan for emotional and physical care after the procedure, including care for other children.” –S.B.

“Returning to work was actually very difficult for me. My coworkers who knew (my direct boss and a few close colleagues) were extremely supportive but I had a hard time going back to ‘business as usual.’ I ended up actually quitting that job a few weeks after my miscarriage. I’m not entirely sure why but I needed to make some kind of change and that was the route I went. I think overall I had been unhappy in the position and thinking of going on maternity leave for three months made it bearable and then I didn’t have that as an option anymore. (As a side note, I got a new position and worked there for two years before returning to the job I had quit — I enjoy it much better now. I also got pregnant a month after my miscarriage and now have a beautiful little girl).” – C.L.

In addition, Allison Venditti, a career coach for moms and a back-to-work expert at Careerlove.ca, offers these four tips:

1. Talk to work in advance

It’s up to you if you want to share or not — and no one can make you talk about it while you are at work. But, you do need to be able to ask for what you want. Send your HR/manager an email letting him know that you would prefer not to have anyone engage you on the topic — he’ll take care of the rest.

 2. Carve out quiet time

Use your breaks to walk and get some fresh air, get a cup of coffee, or count your steps returning to your desk. Returning to work can be overwhelming, so make sure to take moments for yourself.

3. Take it one day at a time – both personally and professionally

Venditti suggests working with your employer to create a three-month plan when they are returning to work to ease back in as you navigate the fog. “There will be good days and there will be bad days,” she says. This is especially helpful to employers who don’t have the specialized expertise to assist grieving mothers. Think of accommodations that may be helpful:

– requesting a later start time (it may be difficult to get out of bed some mornings)

– requesting time off to attend support meetings/therapy

– requesting a reduced work week to start

– requesting shorter work days as you ease back in to work

All of these accommodations can be helpful and are easy to arrange to help you transition back to work. Creating your own plan (again, I suggest 12 weeks — which shows employers that it is not indefinite but designed to support the transition) will help employers know what you need and what  will be helpful.”

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