Returning to work is often referenced as one of the more difficult aspects of re-entering society after a bereavement.
It’s a time when you will deal face to face with the awkwardness that everybody can feel when presented with terrible news, except this time you aren’t bumping into people in a transient situation, you are in work for the day and may not be able to get away.
You feel conscious because you know everybody knows you are going through a rough time. Your co-workers may feel discomfort because they don’t know what to say.
And to cap it all off you need to keep yourself together and try and put in a productive day.
(One tip I heard or read somewhere is to drop in to your place of work a couple of days before you are due to restart. This will allow you to see people and bolt back out of there rather than diving straight back in for a full day. I didn’t do this myself as I had decided to gradually work my way up to doing a full week of work over about a month.)
Because Littlegirl died only a couple of days before she was going to be delivered, I had time off work already organised for much of December.
When she died I came to an arrangement with work that I would return on the 8th of January – which was a Thursday – to ease myself in.
My first days back were tough enough. To start with, I arrived to find my desk in the exact state I’d left it. I think even the applications on the computer where still running, my ipod still plugged into the machine. So one of the first things I got to do was re-read the emails that Irishmam and I had been exchanging over the course of the morning and afternoon that we learnt that Littlegirl was dead. Looking back at the mails it should have been blindingly obvious that something was wrong.
There are only eight of us in the office so thankfully there weren’t a hugh amount of people to deal with. About four of the people said something along the lines of ‘hello’, one of the guys gave me a pat on the arm and told me he figured I’d had a shitty Christmas, my main boss was nice as usual – and the other boss said ‘It’s good to have you back’ which I found to be kind of nice and kind of odd.
Still, at least now I was back in work and I had got through the initial re-appearance in the office. That day and the days that followed passed slowly but in a sense it was good to have some tasks to deal with and to take my mind off everything else. At times it was even nice to deal with clients and people who didn’t know that anything had happened in my life as this gave me a chance to pretend to be normal.
I kept to myself very much for the first three weeks or so. I went to lunch on my own (hiding out in some unlikely lunch spots, and sometimes just walking around the city for the hour) and didn’t talk much more than work required. I also identified an escape route out of the office in case I needed to literally get up and run away. Thankfully I never had to use it.
Another difficult aspect of going back to work was leaving Irishmam on her own for the day. She had lots of support but my absence still meant she was spending time on her own for the first time since Littlegirl died. As she was so upset it was hard to walk away from the house each day knowing she would be alone with her grief.
Ironically, it was also hard to return home at the end of each day. While I was at work I could be reasonably normal and get myself through the day, but every evening for months I would come home to a sad household and a tearful wife and that transition back to our harsh reality was not easy.