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Back to work after bereavement

Discussion in 'Health and wellbeing' started by mangochutney, Feb 20, 2020.

  1. mangochutney

    mangochutney New commenter

    My mum died suddenly and unexpectedly 3 weeks ago. I work in an international school in Asia so had to fly home in an emergency- school have been great, my husband and children also at the school came too and we've been off just under 3 weeks, which I know is generous. We are now back but I will not be paid from this point unless I return to work next week. I don't really want to get signed off but I am very much not ready to stand infront of a class or care at all about the pettiness of school. I'm feeling very anxious (on meds) and socially introverted. I could cope with doing admin or the like but the people side of the job horrifies me right now.
    I found out about my mum via text message whilst teaching and collapsed in the lesson,had to be carried by my husband to the nearest office. I just don't know how to cope with being physically back in that classroom let alone teach that particular class who saw me break down. I'm normally a very honest, open teacher (English) and love discussing difficult subjects and literature but I don't trust myself not to cry. My mum was a teacher too and I often choose to teach texts that we had a mutual passion for, many of the texts I am teaching this year will remind me of her.
    How has anyone else coped with returning to work after the death of a close family member?
  2. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    I think it is a little harsh to speak of "the pettiness" of the school. I can think of much worse 'allowances' I know of than that!
    It might sound harsh but life has to carry on and am sure your mother would be pleased to see you doing just that. Regarding texts which personally meant a great deal to both of you, perhaps avoid them for now and as for the class you were teaching when you found out (strange to receive news like that when in front of a class) am sure something might have been said to them to cover the situation and after a few weeks am sure they won't be dwelling on it.
    Maybe you could suggest a slightly amended school day for a week to help ease you back into your job, though I would probably say it would be better to get back on the horse.
    caress and harsh-but-fair like this.
  3. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

    If you have run out of leave, you have a stark choice, go back, or take a cut to your expected income.

    Bereavement is a personal hell, there is very little anyone can do to help you, or advice you, at this point, you just need to decide which of these is the least worst option for you. If you stay off for longer, will that make going back easier or harder in when you do eventually return? Will you feel better at home unstructured, or in work with a structured day?

    I am sorry for your loss
    caress likes this.
  4. mangochutney

    mangochutney New commenter

    I didn't mean the school's allowance was petty, I meant the mundane daily stuff. To explain, I found out by text because there is an 8 hour time difference between where we are and the uk, my dad wasn't thinking straight and had been ringing my phone, he didn't have the peace of mind to contact act me through school by looking up the number etc As mentioned this was a totally unexpected situation. My husband came to my classroom because he had a free period and had some missed calls from my brother so I checked whilst at the back of the room while the class were watching a section of a Macbeth production. As for 'it may seem harsh' yes it does,very much. It was and is, incredibly traumatic and I am away from my family support network including my father who is not coping well. I was looking for some empathy from people who've been through this, practical ways to cope, not a judgement. Hence why I've posted on here and not opinion. As for the texts I'm teaching, they cannot now be changed or avoided. Thanks for the 'stiff upper lip' advice.
    Emmacl likes this.
  5. smilingisgoodforyou

    smilingisgoodforyou Occasional commenter

    Firstly, sorry for your loss. Condolences to you and your family.
    Only you can decide what to do. If you really can't face going back ( and I understand why you don't want to) , can you take some unpaid leave? I was given time off to be with my mum when she was ill, until she died and I went back to work the day after the funeral. It was hard.I had an incredibly kind and understanding headteacher and was working part time at the time. I would suggest you talk to your headteacher and see what can be done.
    Lalad likes this.
  6. Sundaytrekker

    Sundaytrekker Star commenter

    I am sorry for your loss. Bereavement Stress can be written on a doctor’s certificate. If you are too stressed and unwell to return to the classroom then sickness absence is possible for a while. Perhaps you could talk to your school about a phased return when you are ready. You have been through a traumatic experience and, whilst it is true that normal life must be resumed, you may genuinely not be able to do this at present.
  7. Lalad

    Lalad Star commenter

    I'm sorry for your loss but glad your school has been supportive.

    Is there someone at the school with whom you would be able to have an open and honest conversation about how you feel? Think about how much time you might need and ask for their help and advice; it might be better to take two weeks unpaid and give yourself a chance to come to terms with your loss than to go in when you're not ready.

    Explain to them - as you have here - that your mum's death has hit you quite hard, that you don't feel ready to stand in front of a class (particularly that class in that classroom) you are feeling anxious and tearful; you are worried about the students' reaction and your own; and you think it will be difficult for you to start teaching again next week. They may offer to talk to the students, to let you teach in a different classroom, or even to let you go in part-time to do admin work, if you let them know that these are things you feel will help.

    My mum died five years ago but in very different circumstances: she was in her eighties, it was expected, and I wasn't out of the country thousands of miles away. I chose to carry on teaching because I needed the structure and routine of the school day to help me cope, but everyone deals with grief and loss differently - there is no right or wrong way.

    I hope you can find a way to resolve your current situation that will help you and your family through the next few weeks and months.

  8. bookeater

    bookeater Occasional commenter

    When I returned to work after the death of my husband I found students were very caring and considerate.

    My son who works in the health service had a different story to tell. He was much more stressed at work. His line manager had not informed all the staff and someone asked him if he had a nice time whilst he was off.
    He was given extra leave but didn't tell him it was without pay.

    Talk it through with your husband there is no quick fix answer as everyone reacts in a very different way.
    A phased return might be better for your mental health.
  9. Corvuscorax

    Corvuscorax Star commenter

  10. mangochutney

    mangochutney New commenter

    I am doing a phased return to work this week but I'm worried about taking it all back on next week. I suspect I'll end up having time off later on. I went in today just for 1 lesson and registration but I'd had anti-anxiety meds to cope, though they also make me feel sleepy.
    It's a massive problem for me that my classroom and department is where I found out and all the kids know because I screamed and collapsed. I feel like I'm being watched and whispered about, which I probably am. They are watching for signs of my pain, I'd find teaching a lot easier if school and home issues were more separate but here especially, as an International School we're quite a bubble.
  11. bookeater

    bookeater Occasional commenter

    Most people who do not have experience of the death of a loved one find it hard to cope with the bereaved.
    Let me tell you, most adults and children feel sympathy and you need to try and stop looking for things that may not be there.
    Did you actually enjoy your job and have a good relationship with the students before all this happened?

    If things were not good before this it may be linked back to that...
    look after yourself.

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