Exactly 12 weeks after I delivered my triplets, I received a phone call from HR. They were wondering when I was coming back to work. I remember my heart racing, the anxiety building, as I burst into tears. Just 12 weeks earlier, I delivered three children more than 17 weeks premature.
In that time, I held my firstborn child as she died in my arms.
I went into septic shock and doctors saved my life.
I spent 12+ hours each day in the NICU, watching my babies fight for their life.
And I held my son as he died after 55 days of life.
With one lone survivor still in the NICU, I was expected to either go back to work full time or not at all.
And that’s what is wrong with our society.
So many parents are faced with the unimaginable—the loss of a child and the expectation to “bounce back” and “move on” in a matter of days or weeks.
But that’s not reality.
Whether it’s a miscarriage, stillbirth, or the loss of a child: it’s a loss of a life. Some companies give paid bereavement leave, but some employees only get a couple days before they are expected to bury their emotions and return to normal life.
But here’s the thing: when your child dies, you don’t just lose the memories you had.
No. You lose so much more.
You are left with the shattered dreams of what could have been and the constant reminder of milestones they will never reach in life.
After that phone call from HR, I endured doctor appointments, therapy visits, and a psychiatric evaluation, all to qualify for long term disability. And each time, I had to relive the horrific events of the previous months so that the insurance company could make sure that I was, in fact, a “grieving mother."
This picture was taken exactly eight years ago on the day I returned to work. I remember smiling as I held our miracle triplet. But there was still pain deep within in my eyes.
Something needs to change. Grief doesn’t go away in a matter of days, or months, or years. Parents need better support when it comes to child loss and bereavement coverage. The traumatic past will always be part of my life, but this pictures proves how strong bereaved parents truly are.
A version of this post was originally published here.