Practice what you preach

Queenstown, New Zealand
Queenstown, New Zealand. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

My newsfeed recently displayed a spate of articles about maternity leave. One item talked about what to expect when returning from an absence.

Companies regularly tout their benefits on this front, as they should. But, when my wife and I returned from leave after the birth and death of our son, our experience — at two different places — was not the positive one so many organizations tout.

Instead, it was one of isolation. We raised concerns, but those concerns fell on deaf ears.

Many of our colleagues looked at us differently. Some made inappropriate remarks, while others just ignored us or treated us as if we had the plague.

The worst were the colleagues who couldn’t understand why we didn’t want to be around newborns in the office or conversation about children, particularly the conversations that involved parents complaining about their children.

Creating a welcoming environment should be more than a slogan on the company’s webpage or in its employee handbook. It needs to be something that every employee — starting with the upper echelons of management — follows.

Organizations have an opportunity to take action and make a positive change, particularly for those who are struggling with the loss of a child.

But, there is a lack of critical mass pushing to raise awareness about the grieving process around the loss of a child. There is a month dedicated to infant loss, October, but how many offices are planning to participate in walks or organized events to help raise awareness?

Most people react to the news by ignoring it or hoping it goes away.

When my wife returned to her office, a co-worker dared to ask, “you’re all better now?” She wasn’t recovering from a common cold; this is something that more than two years later, we continue to struggle to understand.

The oddest part about trying to return to normal — which hasn’t yet and may never happen — after the death of my son is who helped. Some people we expected to be helpful were terrific, while others disappeared.

What neither of us expected was the hostility we would face in the workplace. Particularly from organizations that touted how great of a place they were.

My only ask? Practice what you preach. That’s particularly important for organizations that believe they know how to counsel clients.

Todd DeFeo
About Todd DeFeo 412 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.