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Parents of lost babies and potential of all kinds: come here to share the technicolour, the vividness, the despair, the heart-broken-open, the compassion we learn for others, having been through this mess — and see it reflected back at you, acknowledged and understood.

Thanks to photographer Xin Li and to artist Stephanie Sicore for their respective illustrations and photos.

for one and all > i think i was verbally attacked at work

Looking for some advice or support.

My return to work has been difficult. For a variety of reasons but also just simply learning to re-navigate life. A co-worker who I believe has my best interest at heart notified me of a conversation that took place between staff upon my return. Short version: there was a discussion that the 'brand' of the office is the most important. That the office had to continue to live up to its caliber and the office staff could not be worried about "babysitting" me/dealing with my grief...

Of course my initial reaction was to be upset. Deep down I was very hurt. Hurt that I place I have worked at for 4 years and co-workers who I consider family would think the 'brand' of the office is more important than creating a supportive environment for my return. Or that I would ever think anyone would need to 'babysit' me. I may not be the same person I was before and the initial few weeks (any maybe few months) may be difficult but I will always remain professional and composed.

For a day I was rather distant at work. Didn't talk to anybody. Just focused on work and saw my patients. My emotions are so short fused that I didn't just want to start yelling and throwing accusations around. I needed to process it. So the next day, I asked the two co-workers to go to lunch. Hoping to just clear the air. It went so wrong. I'm still in shock.

I explained about the conversation I had been made aware of. One co-worker said she had never been apart of it. The other sort of paused for a minute and said no, I don't know what you are talking about. But then became very heated and started, almost yelling at me, that I have been extremely difficult to work with since my return. That I've been a "difficult bitch" and I'm not the only one grieving the loss of my son. Implying that not sitting with the other co-workers at lunch or going into a room to cry is somehow unacceptable. That she is really considering talking to our boss about all of it.

All of it was so unbelievable and hurtful. I could barley formulate a response. I was crying and I felt attacked. I couldn't really even formulate a response back. I couldn't believe she told me she was grieving the loss of my son too - as if she is experiencing everything I am. Or that I wasn't functioning the way she felt was appropriate and that made it wrong. All I could do was walk away - I was crying and shaking so hard.

I couldn't go home. I had one more patient to see. One of the other doctors who has been so supportive was working that day and sat down and talked to me. Apologized profusely that I just experienced that (not her fault). The other co-worker who was at that exchange sent me a text saying she wished she wasn't apart of what happened, that she had no right to say those things. I was then informed that my boss had been notified of the exchange (by phone - hes out of town) by the other co-worker. My boss called the office and talked to the physician on hand. She explained it would be best to give me some space, as I was visibly upset and hurt.

I left work right after my patient. The co-worker then proceeded to text me: "I know you don't want to hear this right now, but I am so sorry I upset you." "I have feelings too." "I guess I'm not handling all of this well."' "I'm only this direct with people I love."

I don't know what to do? I can't even look at this co-worker. There is no support there, no attempt of understanding of what I'm going through, no empathy... I'm not even 4 months out from losing Carter. It's a struggle everyday to just get out of bed but I do it. I may be quiet and not interact like I use to but that's because it takes all my strength to get through the day and give my patients 100% while I am STILL GRIEVING.

I don't need this. It's stress that I do not need in my life. I have enough to deal with right now. Personally, she's cut out of my life. I don't need someone that toxic around me. But, I work with her. Every day. I will likely have to replay it all with my boss this week (and he hasn't been the most supportive since my return - he just doesn't do emotions). I don't know what to do or what to say? How can people be so callous? I'm not even sure what advice I'm looking for... I just don't know how to handle it all.

I miss my sweet Carter so much.
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJenna
Oh Jenna im so very sorry you had to deal with that. Its hard enough as you say to motivate ourselves to even get out of bed each day nevermind try go back to work and then have someone say such hurtful and shocking things to you at a time when you really need their support is just awful. I posted before about my anxiety of going back to work and you gave me some really good advice, so I totally get where your coming from, you should be given support on your return not added stress. I dont know how I would react if that were to be said to me, I think I would have reacted the same as you in disbelief. Im sorry I cant offer you much, I just wish I could give you a big hug. She is a horrible human being, how dare she rank your grief and be so selfish, your Carters mother and you have every right to grieve in your own way and time. I would talk with your boss and explain how stressful it has been for you and it is not how a loyal employee should be treated. You are so brave for going back there, they should be lucky to have you back at all.
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterF
Jenna - I am so sorry you have to deal with this drama on top of your grief for Carter and the difficulty just getting through the day. The sad truth is that there are many people who are so self-centered and self-absorbed that they can only see the world through their own prism. It sounds like your co-worker is truly the worst of that type - I cannot fathom how anyone would find it appropriate to tell a grieving mother that she is not recognizing their grief over her loss! I don't have any advice to give you unfortunately - you are right to recognize this person is toxic and you should have as little to do with her as possible. I'd take comfort in those who have reached out to tell you that they recognize that this woman was wrong and that they support you. I'll be thinking of you.
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSR
I can relate to some of what you have experienced. I work in a very small, close knit office that is typically a fun, supportive environment. I have this one coworker who is lacking in the empathy department. I've never been her biggest fan, our personalities don't mesh, but dealing with her post loss has been awful. We see patients in an open bay and she is so chatty with the pregnant ones. Drives me nuts, no understanding of my feelings. One day she had a pt who was 37 weeks with a boy JUST LIKE I WAS WHEN MINE SUDDENLY DIED and she was so chatty about "when he comes" etc. I had to go cry in the lab. Then another day she found out her niece had just given birth and she started launching into the story with me. So I interrupted and was all "and yeah I bet the baby was alive" to which she we went and told another coworker that she didn't think she could work with me anymore. Ahhh...so much drama. I get it that I'm not "normal" anymore and that stinks for my coworkers because I'm sure it's not fun for them to be working with the grieving coworker and they therefore have to be careful about what they say around me.

With this lady what I ended up doing is calling my boss to discuss our conflicts before she could tell him her side. He said he would have a talk with her to discuss her sensitivity and he ultimately modified our schedules so we only work a half day together. Since your boss already knows something happened find a time where you are feeling a little stronger and preemptively discuss the situation before they start talking about it with your coworkers. I tried to emphasize that I've been professional and haven't let my grief interfere with patient care and all I needed was sensitivity from my coworkers, that pregnancy and baby talk triggers my grief and if we could try to discuss other things in my presence that'd be helpful. There are tons of other things we can talk about, both among ourselves and with our patients. I guess things are a bit better. I'm still kind of weird and anxious in the office and I'm coming up on the year mark tomorrow.
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMom2htb
Jenna, I was thinking about you today before I read this. I know you poor sweet Carter died around the same time as my Samuel. I had to pop into work today to pick up a piece of paperwork. It's the first time I've been in since Samuel. I'm not back at work yet. I was shaking when I went in. I will write you a proper response tomorrow as I'm off to bed but I just wanted to say how I think your amazing to be back to work. Just getting up in the morning is amazing, let alone making it to work. Big love and big hugs during this deeply sad and stressful time xxx
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBeckie
I'm sorry you have to deal with this. It is not right and it is not you. I'm going to go ahead and give you some thoughts to mull over on how to handle it if your boss brings it up.

First, immediately ask for clarification of what is being discussed. Is it your professional ability or is it personality conflicts with staff. Do that all the way through, do not let him combine your staff interactions with your professional job performance. They are two distinct areas of concern for your boss. If he brings up professional abilities, answer with your professional competence. If he brings up your attitude and your relationship with your co-workers, first ask him if he is trying to tell you that he doesn't like the personality changes he sees in you at this point, when you are four months postpartum and four months past the death of your son. Ask him if that is his point. Ask if he is talking about things that have occurred since your return to work or if he is just now discussing a personality conflict that has been ongoing. If it has been ongoing, ask why he is now bring it to your attention, instead of earlier in your employment. If he says he is trying to talk about your current attitude and behavior, ask him, not angrily, but just ask what he expected of someone who gave birth and their son died. Did he and the other staff expect that it would not affect your view of life and how you thought and acted. If at some point he asks what can be done to smooth things over, suggest he get a grief councilor in from Hospice to do a presentation. A continuing education type thing.

Do your best to remain calm and be very sure to keep the focus clear - professional vs. personal. These are just some thoughts of mine to get you started. I think it is rotten that this is happening to you. Good luck and I'll be thinking of you. Keep us updated, if you can and want to. Sending you some peace and hoping you can feel it.
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJill A.
Jenna,

I am so sorry you have been attacked like this and it does sound like grief bullying. I have been attacked to, by my own family member, and posted about it a few months ago (see feeling judged and failing to find peace). I have come to realize that while some people are sympathetic they have no empathy. Your grief upsets them, for whatever myriad of reasons, and they are so self centered they lash out at you. The attack is from a place of total ignorance . I mean - has this woman really thought what it would be like to lose your son? She is lucky she has no idea that even getting out of bed 4 months out takes monumental effort. I want to smack her for you! I am lucky in that I have been able to distance myself from the family member who shamed me, and pretty much plan on never speaking to them again. However, it has broken up the family. Honoring my journey just matters more to me right now . But you can't fully avoid a coworker and that means you will have to resolve it. How you do that - I don't know. The book "Tear Soup" is a good one and explains how most people tire of grief after one month. We will mourn our babies forever!

You are doing amazing to even be back at work.

If only everyone could be gentle with us. If only people could have their criticisms and judgements and just keep them to themselves. At almost two years out, I have learned that I need to be more private and be vulnerable with a select few to protect myself.

I am so sorry you are going through this. I wish your Carter was here on Earth.
June 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKim
Dear Jenna

As I said last night well done for returning to work, well done for getting up in the mornings and well done for holding what at times feels like pointless inane conversations when really all you can think about is MY BABY DIED.
I'm so sorry you had to go through through this on top of grieving. As SR said the world does have some toxic self centred people. I believe there's no point in worry about these people. You've done the right thing to take her away from you personal life. I doubt your boss will do very much as unfortunately you can't change people's personalities.
Remember this is her issue. You are grieving and your role is not to make other people happy or 'more comfortable' in the work place.
Keep your chin up, you're doing amazing. Xx
June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBeckie
Jenna, I'm so very sorry you had this interaction, this horrible, insensitive experience. I haven't had someone lash out at me like this but I've had a friend admit that she'd prefer I was more like I used to be prior to my daughter's death (but tried to spin it that it was because she just wants me to be happy again), and a co-worker of mine has brought up several times that when I was out on leave (or 'gone' as he likes to put it), it was the worst time he can remember in our office. It wasn't a good time for me to be gone (um, sorry about that? And I was only gone 6 weeks, when I probably should have taken more time...) and it was so hectic for them. The worst semester he can remember for our department. The 2nd time he said this, I calmly said something along the lines of, "I'm sorry it was so busy here in my absence but you're preaching to the choir about it being the worst semester you can remember...because my child died." To which he replied, "Well it was hard for us too because of how we feel about you." While I'm glad they care about me and I can understand how they're upset for us and saddened for us that this happened, they have NO FREAKING CLUE how actually horrific and devastating it is for US. I wish I was on the other side of this, feeling badly for a co-worker's unimaginable loss but instead, I'm living the horror. And notice the past tense of it "was" hard for them? Guess what? It STILL IS for my husband and me. For all of us who live this nightmare. Every effing day is hard. Words fall short for how hard it is.

I don't know what I would have done if someone so callously and aggressively chided me for how I'm grieving, I would likely have started crying as you did and walked away. What else can you do? I would have wanted to slap her. I agree with what Jill A. has suggested to you should a conversation with your boss arise. I think clarifications need to be made about expectations vs reality and personal vs professional. And, I know this isn't likely what you want to consider as this point because the last thing people in our situation need is more change, especially in the early months post-loss, but...if things don't improve, perhaps it would be appropriate to start looking for a new job. You don't need this daily stressor on top of what you're already enduring. I work with someone who I don't mesh with personality wise and it's been challenging enough these last 10 months since Evelyn died, so I can't imagine having someone I work with (and the feel of the department as a whole) be so unwelcoming. Having to walk on egg-shells and feel like you're being judged every moment is not fair, nor is it healthy for you. And I'm so very sorry.

Thinking about you and your sweet Carter, and hoping for a resolution to this for you, however that may come about. Hugs <3
June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
I cannot belive this and am discusted with your coworker. Yes she is grief in too... but not even close to what you are!... I give you cudos for how you handled it I pictured myself throat punching her... not going to lie....

My return to work.. I also work in the medical field... our social worker worked with the staff during my time off and talked to them in how I would be feeling how to talk to me when I came back how to deal with the own emotions etc.
I am so sorry you didn't and haven't been getting the support you need.
June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterStill0517
I can't thank you ladies enough for the support. Your comforting and kind words were so needed. I wish I knew each one of you personally, and we all could get together on weekends and be in a safe space together. I am incredibly thankful for this community.

F, thank you so much for the comforting words. I think one of the hardest parts of that whole exchange was hearing her compare her grief to mine. How does a person even say that? It just shows a complete lack of empathy and understanding for what grieving really is. I do hope your return to work is a smooth transition. Find those co-workers who are supportive and understanding; they can be your safe space.

SR, thank you for your kind response. One of the things that has surprised me the most through this whole process is exactly what you said... "people see the world through their own prism." It's all about them and how it's affecting their life. And even when someone is in the middle of the worst trauma of their life, it is still about them.

Mom2htb, I am so sorry you have experienced this as well. It just makes the return to work so much more difficult. I'm glad you were able to speak with your boss and that he was receptive. I'm hoping mine will be the same. Thinking of you today and your sweet son on the year mark. Sending a lot of hugs your way.

Beckie, the first time you step into that office after being a away is so incredibly difficult. Your words are something I keep having to remind myself of... my role is to grieve however I see fit and not adjust so it makes other people comfortable. Thinking of sweet Samuel and hoping your transition back into work is smooth.

Jill, thank you so much for the advice. I needed that. I will definitely keep the conversation separated between professional and personal. My therapist actually offered to come into the office to talk about grief, what I'm feeling, returning to work and I didn't think my boss would be receptive to that but now I am going to suggest it. I think it would provide a lot of insight and helpful information.

Kim, I am so sorry you have to deal with this too... with a family member. I read your post and the lack of understanding and empathy people show someone suffering the loss of a child; I just don't get it. I'm starting to learn that I may need to be selective with people as well. It's just too personal and some people just cause you to spiral downwards (even though I try not to give them that power).

Melissa, thank you for the kind words. I am shocked as to the experiences you have had. It's the comparison - how anyone can compare their grief or the hardships that they faced while we were gone is just astonishing to me. Like you, I am glad my co-workers care about me and the death of Carter affected them but they have no idea the path I am walking and I hope they never do.

Still0517, I will give you my work address and you are more than welcome to come throat punch her. I'm glad the social worker helped your co-workers understand what you would face upon your return and how you would be feeling. I do wish that would have taken place at my office.

Again, from the bottom of my heart thank you. I'll let everyone know the update - I return to work on Thursday.
I wish all our sweet babies were here with us. Sending lots of hugs and love everyone's way.
June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJenna
Jenna, I'm so glad you feel understood and comforted! One more piece of advice for you. On Thursday, pamper yourself. Wear comfortable clothes or clothes that make you feel good and brave. Plan a nice lunch, something special, like comfort food you really enjoy. Plan something for after work, like take out to make the evening easy. You could be walking into a mess, into an office that has decided it is best to ignore the whole thing or anything in between the two. Be good to yourself and be gentle with yourself. I'll be thinking of you and sending you peace, strength and some humor. Because sometimes laughter helps!
June 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJill A.