Very sad situation at work - does anyone have any advice?

(13 Posts)
bigredtractor Thu 15-Sep-11 20:16:13


I'm returning to work soon after mat leave and a work colleague and his wife recently lost their baby boy at 5 weeks old. I am so very very sad for them.

My worry is that people will ask about my baby during the first few weeks back, infront of him (we work closely together but aren't in exactly the same dept). I'm not as worried about colleagues, as I'm sure (or hope) that they'll be more sensitive, but perhaps other business friends and contacts who aren't aware.

I guess I'm not sure of two things - firstly, how I should greet him the first time I see him back at work (I haven't seen him since I found out) and secondly, how I can respond in a low-key way if people bring up our baby in his presence.

I am considering contacting him with my condolences or a message before I come back to work - does anyone think that might be a bad idea?

I can't imagine how painful it is for him and his wife and I don't want to make it worse.

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2ddornot2dd Thu 15-Sep-11 20:25:46

I haven't been in a similar situation, but I would carry on as if nothing had happened (but maybe a little more discretly than usual). I think that sometimes everyone walking on egg shells can make a situation worse, as if there is something to hide/be ashamed of.

Your baby and his are effectively two unconnected events, and I'm sure he won't begrudge you your child.

I think that giving him condolences in advance is a good idea, it means that when you are back in the office you can greet him as a colleague, in the same way that you will be greeting your other colleagues.

This might all be dreadful advice, and I am prepared to be shouted down by more experienced and tactful MNers

bigredtractor Thu 15-Sep-11 20:40:50

Thanks - I did wonder whether not acknowledging it at all might be worse?

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SpideySenseTingling Thu 15-Sep-11 20:48:35

Yes, contact him before hand.

It's well worth an email/call in it's own right I think. Don't make it about how embarrassed you feel, he shouldn't feel he has to reassure you (though I understand why you'd feel that way).

But after that yes be careful not to gush about your baby but don't try to ignore or deny it's existence if people ask in front of him.

I am lucky enough not to have lost a baby but have heard people say they don't want your baby, they want their own baby ie he won't begrudge you having your baby despite his own bereavement.

You sound sensitive to his loss so I'm sure you'll handle the situation.

Sleepyspaniel Thu 15-Sep-11 21:07:59

Unless he is a good friend at work, I wouldn't contact him prior to returning to offer your condolences. It makes it look like you pity him and/or, worse, that you are somehow, feeding off their grief. Hard to explain but being singled out from the person who has what you currently want the most, can be hard to take.

I would say hello to him like all the other colleagues when you return but would take a quiet moment when nobody around to hear, as soon as possible after you arrive back at work to look the guy in the eye and say genuinely, "I'm so sorry to hear about your son". It's better that you say "son", not "baby" it makes it more personal to him whereas "babies" are general to both of you IYSWIM. It helps make it more him, less you which is what you want. Take your cue from him if he wants to say a few words about it or not but try not to look like you are cringing in any way because you have a baby and he doesn't. If he asks you how your baby is I would treat that as a pleasant enquiry in words whilst acknowledging the bravery of the question, in your eyes (as it were).

If other people ask about your baby in front of him, don't patronise him by being super awkward and stilted about the topic but just keep your answers brief and pleasant and don't rattle on to fill the gap. Have something neutral ready to say and keep the longer stories for when he's not around. Just "oh fine thanks, you know, it's been busy... how have you been?" or "yes, not bad thanks, coming along..."

Iactuallylikeabigmac Fri 16-Sep-11 13:53:00

Do not carry on as normal please! He has lost a child not a pet hamster.

It all depends on your relationship with him and to an extent his personality.

When I lost my son I appreciated a warm hug and ' I'm so sorry ' the most. Sometimes that is enough and you don't need or want to say anything else other times you may want to talk about your loss.

Just by the fact you are asking on here shows you are caring.

But being ignored as a newly bereaved parent is destroying.

bigredtractor Fri 16-Sep-11 20:27:17

Thanks BigMac - I'll drop him a note before I get back I think - otherwise too much time will have passed and I would feel bad for not acknowledging him sooner.

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bibbitybobbityhat Fri 16-Sep-11 20:31:53

Definitely definitely definitely send him your condolences before you go back to work. Preferably via a card or letter in the post, rather than email or facebook. It will mean more to him than you can imagine.

bigredtractor Fri 16-Sep-11 20:35:44

Yes - e-mail seems far too flippant for the loss of a child. I will find a nice card and post it to him I think.

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Whatevertheweather Fri 16-Sep-11 20:39:57

I would definately send condolences before you return if you can. He will then know you are sensitive to his situation and I can't imagine he would hold anything against you if other people ask about your baby.

I second what bibbity said - if you can send a card or letter it will mean so much. I recently lost my baby daughter and I got some really lovely cards from colleagues I don't even know that well. It really means a lot. Some of them are pregnant/have young babies and I certainly don't feel they are feeding off of my grief and I don't begrudge them their babies at all. They don't have what I want as they don't have my daughter.

You sound really lovely and sensitive to his loss so I am sure you will handle it well. Good luck with your return to work.

bibbitybobbityhat Fri 16-Sep-11 20:51:51

Cards in the post mean so much when you lose a loved one (recent experience) they really do.

QuickLookBusy Sat 17-Sep-11 13:52:36

A note does means so much, your colleague will know you are thinking of him.

Agree also with those who said do not carry on as normal if this poor man is within listening distance. It will be heartbreaking for him to hear too much about any baby. If people ask you about your baby, infront of him, I would say something along the lines of "Baby is lovely thank you" and then change the subject.

I have experience of this recently with a friend who has lost her teenage DD. The insensitivity of some people is astounding. My friend has has had to listen to people going into great detail about their teenagers lives/activites. It is all just too much for her to cope with.

You sound a very caring person, and it will be hard as your return will be tinged with saddness because of your work colleague. But just keep references short and sweet and you will be fine.

bigredtractor Sat 17-Sep-11 20:04:49

Thank you all.

WTW I saw your story and really feel for you - wishing you well x

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