Something and Nothing

Most companies offer three days off for grief.

[The Tennessean. Oct. 26, 2011] “Bill Would Give Grieving Parents Unpaid Leave.” Some people deserve the right to stay home and grieve. Those who have lost children need time off work, up to 12 weeks, without the fear of losing their jobs. About two percent of US annual deaths involve babies, children, and teens. In 2007, that number was 53,000.

Yes, I agree that these people need time to process reality and loss, to plod through shock and into a new normal without that loved one. I’ve heard losing a child is the most anguishing experience one will ever bear. It’s kind and considerate when these parents are provided with a safety net so they can begin to heal from crippling loss, because in loss, one cannot focus, one cannot think, one cannot remember what happened a minute ago.

Our lawmakers are now giving of their time and energy to consider a bill that would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act to allow grieving parents of children eighteen and younger to take unpaid leave for twelve weeks without having to worry about losing their jobs. They are doing this for SOME AMERICANS. Not all.

It only applies to people who work for a company that has fifty or more employees.

What about all those who have jobs with smaller firms? They are S-O-L. I trust you know what that means.

I learned about this a few years ago. I worked with my husband in a small company he owned. He died, the income was gone instantly, the office rent was due in two days, the home mortgage was due in five, and there were a hundred small businesses depending on him to keep their computer networks up and running. With his death, I lost my job and there was no time to grieve, not even the standard three days. Before his funeral I was taking care of customers and interviewing companies to merge our business with. Then I cleaned and moved out of the office within four weeks, all the while looking for another job. I went to work six weeks after his death.

I went to work for a company that had twenty employees. So one year later when my mother was ill and I needed time off desperately to go take care of her, I didn’t have it because my company didn’t fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act. I was told I could use all my sick days and vacation days and then I wouldn’t get paid and if too many days went by, well, then, they might have to bring someone else in to do my job, but they would try to give me something when I came back. I was a single wage-earner in my household. So I delayed going to my mother and had to put her in a nursing home that pushed enough morphine into her to kill an elephant, though I didn’t realize it at the time, and in less than a month she was at the point of death. My sister and I took her home and stayed with her and I used up all my days off at work. I drove the six hours home after her funeral and went to work the next day.

I wonder how many other Americans are in this category.

The government does things that are good sometimes, but they don’t always benefit all Americans. Just some. My heart goes out to all those Americans who don’t work for companies of fifty employees or more because I know a little bit of what you’ll go through when it happens to you, and it is an anguishing experience and one you never get over.

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3 Comments on “Something and Nothing”

  1. Christopher says:

    This is truly awful. I understand the hard economics that companies have to consider when employees cannot come to work, but we’re not all robots yet. In Germany, companies must offer PAID leave of two days when a family member dies. Unpaid leave is usually no problem–and your job is almost always there when you get back.

  2. Glenda Beall says:

    I heard this week of a couple with a premature baby, one pound, that is still in the hospital fifty miles away, but the mother had to come home and go back to work. The baby is not expected to live, and the parents can’t stay with it because they have to work. So sad. This culture of ours doesn’t give grief must thought until it happens to them.

  3. I am so wishing that the government did not have to step in at all. I wish that people who own businesses would do the next right thing for their employees that are suffering. If they did, then there would be no need for laws mandating compassionate behavior.

    When I lost my son, I was not “capable” for quite some time.


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