For me, October 15, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day, is a bittersweet day. Over the years, I've had four miscarriages and, in 2014, stillborn twins. For a long time, what is supposed to be a joyous process, becoming parents, was unbelievably painful for me and my husband. We're reminded of that every day -- not just October 15.
But I'm grateful that this day of mourning gets others talking about an issue many suffer through in silence. There's limited awareness about pregnancy and child loss, which leaves those experiencing it with little support and few resources. And because of this, most struggling couples feel alone in their grief.
I didn't know how to talk with friends and family about what I was experiencing. I was treated by cold doctors and specialists whom I didn't know better to not trust. It wasn't until I had more knowledge and found a support system that I could properly advocate for myself and successfully gave birth to my daughter in 2016.
While I know it's difficult for people to talk about these types of things, as an employer, I would never want any of my employees to go through the loss of a pregnancy or child alone.
Here are three reasons why employers should support employees who've lost pregnancies or infants:
1. They feel alone.
Over the course of 15 years, Linsey McNew, now a communications strategist, has had four miscarriages, all why being employed. Not once did she receive any support or benefits from her employers. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. Most companies do not have guidelines to support employees through a loss.
"From what I've experienced, HR needs to be trained on how to handle loss situations so they don't re-traumatize a new parent going through an excruciating and often unexplainable situation," McNew said.
One great way to support grieving employees is to develop a list of resources to have on hand. Let them know about sites like Share, an online community for parents who have lost a pregnancy or infant.
Look through these resources to get a better understanding of how to help people cope. Reading about ways to deal with grief will help you and others understand what affected employees are going through.
2. They'll leave.
Recently, Sean McComber lost his four-year-old son. He has since quit his job because the corporate culture wasn't supportive of his needs.
"My employer certainly did some nice things after my loss," McComber said. "But there were a lot of other issues that can never be undone."
Avoid losing great talent by developing a comprehensive leave policy for grieving employees. This should involve paid time off and flexible scheduling once the employee returns.
Since everyone deals with loss differently, it's important for the overall policy to be flexible. Be understanding and give them the space they need. If you're unsure how to begin, reach out to a professional grieving counselor to get an idea of what would be a fair policy.
People are in pain after a loss, so it's important to know when and how to reach out to them. Chances are employees haven't read the grief leave policy because everyone hopes they'll never need it. Again, consult a professional grief counselor about the best way to communicate the policy to employees after they've experienced a loss.
3. They're facing impossible decisions.
After a child dies, parents are forced to make some of the hardest decisions imaginable. While the pain is at its freshest, they have to make funeral plans, decide what to do with pre-purchased baby items, and tell family and friends what happened.
When Christine McAlister's daughter was stillborn, she and her husband were completely overwhelmed.
"The most helpful support for me were colleagues, clients and friends who were proactive," McAlister said. "The shock of such a loss rendered me -- and all of the loss parents I know -- totally unable to know what I needed. Saying 'yes' when help was offered was my lifeline."
Help take some things off the employee's plate. Create a meal schedule where you and other employees can volunteer for days to make the grieving colleague a hot meal. If they have other children, arrange for a babysitter.
If possible, make donations to organizations that help grieving parents, such as Miles With Maeve, a nonprofit McAlister co-founded that provides services like funeral planning and grief counseling.