Whenever Leah was diagnosed in 2013 I desperately wanted to keep on working. I love my job and going to work is one of my coping strategies. However, it quickly became apparent that I needed to be at home with Leah. I write about the circumstances that led to me going off work here.
I did not at all begrudge doing this, but at the same time I also felt a distinct sense of loss.
When we returned from Bristol, towards the end of 2013, I had a conversation with my employer about returning to work. I wanted to believe that my daughter was going to be well enough for this to happen.
In early December 2013, I asked for and was given a 2014 work diary. I wanted this tangible symbol that I would soon be returning to work and would need this diary. I kept it in my bedroom where I could see it, as reassurance that all of our lives would soon start returning to normal.
Then, in January 2014, Leah died. I couldn’t imagine ever being capable of working again. Just getting out of bed and getting dressed was quite an achievement. My employers were very supportive and patient. Eventually, by mutual agreement, it was agreed that I would return to my part-time post on the 1st September 2014.
Due to someone being on Maternity Leave, I was offered the opportunity of initially returning to a post in a rural area, somewhere that is more convenient for me. I was very pleased, as I knew that this would make my transition back to work easier, for several reasons.
As September approached, I felt both excited and nervous. The weekend immediately prior to my returning to work was awful, just awful.
My grief intensified.
I imagined that if my employers could see the state that I was in, they wouldn’t even let me through the door, much less let me loose on the unsuspecting public.
Besides my overwhelming grief, I didn’t know if I could still enjoy my work.
I wondered if everything that had happened, had changed me so much, that I would no longer find any satisfaction in what I had once found so fulfilling.
Well, work has been so good for me. It’s the only part of my life that’s more or less the same today, as it was before Leah took ill.
Having something in my life that hasn’t changed, when it feels like everything else in my life has changed beyond recognition, is so reassuring.
To my amazement, I soon discovered that I still knew how to do my job.
Not only that, I still love it.
Many mornings I still cry on my way to work, but as soon as I get there, the busyness of my work commitments push my distress to the back of my mind.
In the first few months after returning to work, as soon as I stepped outside the Health Centre to come home, I used to feel the heavy cloak of my grief descend upon me once again. Sometimes on my way home, I would pull in somewhere and give way to my emotions, so as not to upset everyone when I arrived home.
One day at work, someone momentarily forgot my name and introduced me to a work colleague as “Leah’s Mummy“. I thought that was so beautiful – that acknowledgement that although my daughter is dead, I am still her Mummy. I loved that they weren’t afraid to say Leah’s name in case I would get upset or something. Leah’s school is close to where I was working and her story is well known in the local community.
My work colleagues didn’t make a big fuss of my grief and I wouldn’t have wanted them to. However, quietly, behind closed doors, words of support were uttered and hugs were given, whenever I most needed them. I really appreciated that, as some days I was just hanging by a thread.
Today was my last day working in that rural town, sadly for me.
On Monday 15th June I return to my permanent post in the City. To the office where I was working during the early months of Leah’s illness, until shortly after she received her diagnosis. To the desk where I received phone calls from haematology regarding Leah’s blood tests. To the carpark where I sat in my car and cried hysterically, because those blood results had convinced me that there really was something seriously wrong with my child.
I have a mixture of feelings.
I’m very aware that I’ve so much to be thankful for:
Thankful for paid employment.
Thankful for a job that I love.
Thankful that I was given the opportunity to ease my way back into working life via a slightly quieter rural location.
Thankful for supportive work colleagues, both where I’m leaving and where I’m returning to.
Thankful for relatively good health that has enabled me to not have even one day’s sickness absence since my return.
Thankful that the same God who has been by my side up to now, continues to walk with me and will give me strength for all that lies ahead.