How to Take Bereavement Leave for a Miscarriage: Step-by-Step

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Coping with a miscarriage can you leave you feeling sad, lonely, and confused. Society does not always accept or understand the grief behind a miscarriage, which can leave people feeling isolated during a sensitive time. And that can include employers. 

Some employers may not offer bereavement leave, but there are federal, state, and local laws that protect employees experiencing a miscarriage and their right to take time off. These protections also extend access to reasonable accommodations and other protections following a miscarriage.

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows all eligible workers the right to take unpaid leave to care for serious health conditions. Miscarriages are not uncommon, as they can happen in one out of every four pregnancies, and are also covered by this act. If you are struggling with the grief and pain following a miscarriage, and need some time off, here are some tips to keep in mind.

How to Ask Your Boss for Bereavement Leave After a Miscarriage

Knowing your rights under the FMLA is necessary to understand the concept of taking time off to grieve your child’s loss due to miscarriage. The FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks per year of unpaid leave for the care and attention needed for personal severe health conditions.

It is important to remember that you must have worked for your employer at least 1250 hours in the one year before asking for bereavement leave under the FMLA. 

Although miscarriage isn't traditionally a part of bereavement leave, you may still qualify for paid time off under your company's bereavement leave policies aside from the FMLA’s protections.

Consider a careful review of the policies and procedures affecting your medical and bereavement status. You may want to schedule a time to discuss this matter with your company's human resources department. 

Knowing how to ask for bereavement leave can mean the difference between an approval or denial of your request. The following example email will guide you in asking for time off during your bereavement. You can copy it verbatim or personalize it as it makes sense to you and your unique circumstances. 

Sample email asking for bereavement leave for a miscarriage

Dear Sir or Madam, 

This email is to inform you that I have recently suffered a miscarriage. I am grieving and will need time to work through this challenging period as I’m heartbroken and find it difficult to function at present. 

Please keep this information confidential and only share it with those to whom it's necessary. I'm still working on processing this devastating loss and require privacy at this time. I appreciate your understanding and support.

As such, I'm requesting bereavement time off as made available under company policy as well as the FMLA. I welcome the full paid time off allotted for such circumstances. To my understanding, I'm allowed a full three days of paid bereavement time off followed by a full 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave. 

At present, I'm unsure how much time off exactly I'll need to process my child's death. I welcome the full extent of the permitted leave until further notice. 

Respectfully,

Your name and signature

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How Long Should You Take Bereavement Leave After Miscarriage?

Bereavement for miscarriage may require some time off for physical or mental health reasons. If you experience the physical loss of pregnancy and need to take some time off after miscarriage, you should refer to this medical episode as pregnancy-related sickness.

By doing so, your employer shouldn't be able to use your time off against you to either discipline you, terminate your employment, or refuse you a promotion.

Typically, you should be able to self-certify that your leave request is pregnancy-related during the first seven days you ask for time off. Any claim for additional time off extending beyond this first week may require you to provide your employer with a letter from your medical practitioner certifying that your disability or medical condition is pregnancy-related.

It would be best if you took as much time as you need to process your pregnancy loss before deciding how long you should take off work after a death. Some employers may consider a two-week time off work for miscarriage as being enough time for bereavement. However, this is not always the case. Each person is different, and each circumstance requires its amount of time off.

Deciding to go back to work and then realizing you need additional time off is a possibility. Ask your employer and your medical provider to continue to certify your time off as pregnancy-related to maintain your protected status under the FMLA. If you choose to keep your pregnancy a secret from your employer, your time off will not fall under the FMLA protection.

Should You Tell Your Coworkers Why You’re Taking Bereavement Leave?

Deciding to talk to your coworkers about your miscarriage is a deeply personal decision to make. You may want to consider the relationship you have with your coworkers, as well as your privacy. Not everyone at the workplace is understanding of the loss of a child due to miscarriage.

While some people will offer you their support and understanding, there are as many waiting to fill your role at work or take over your position.

There are specific strategies needing consideration to navigate work after miscarriage successfully. For some people, it may be natural to openly discuss miscarriage with their coworkers and employer. For others, it's a profoundly private matter.

However, depending on the length of the pregnancy, it may be impossible to avoid talking about the loss. Regardless, navigating the emotional aftermath of pregnancy loss may prove challenging when returning to work.

The following are some strategies that can help you navigate these conversations in the workplace.

1.  Decide on who you'll tell about your miscarriage

When opting to share the news of your miscarriage with coworkers, carefully consider who you'll invite to tell. Once you share the information with one person, it is possible that others may find out later. It's challenging to keep this type of news under wraps in a work environment.

In addition, you may be experiencing grief-related symptoms that can leave you emotionally and physically affected. Your heightened sensitivities may lead you to react in more sensitive ways than usual when dealing with coworkers and work-related issues.

Try and find a middle ground by disclosing what would happen to only those people whom you are close to and trust. Set obvious boundaries regarding how much information you'll share, when you'll discuss your miscarriage, and who you'll avoid in sharing the information.

It makes sense to tell a very select few people after returning to work. People will be wondering why you took time off of work. Remember that it's not their right to know, especially when you don't have personal relationships with specific colleagues.

In instances where you may need significant time off, it may be necessary to disclose your miscarriage to your immediate supervisor, boss, or the business owner.

If your coworkers knew that you were pregnant, it would make sense to let them know of your miscarriage when it is right for you. You may want to consider sharing your experience with those closest to you for the added support and encouragement when things get a little rough at work.

When telling others about your loss, remember that it's okay to set boundaries. Be very clear on the information you would want to be shared and which information you want to be kept between you.

2. Don't blame yourself

Above all else, remember that it's not your fault. When suffering a miscarriage, it's easy to blame yourself for what went wrong. You may find yourself recounting the steps right before the miscarriage, wondering if you should’ve done things differently.

You may have gone on a long walk, exercised strenuously, or pushed yourself at work a little too hard. All of these things may have you wondering if they contributed to your miscarriage.

Feelings of guilt and remorse are some of the most substantial feelings people who identify as women can experience following pregnancy loss. While you know that it's not your fault, your emotions can leave you feeling something entirely different. You’ll look for reasons to lay blame for what’s happened. 

In most instances, it's impossible for you to control the rationale leading up to miscarriage. A miscarriage typically signals that there's something wrong with the viability of the fetus. No matter how much you wish for it to be different when the body rejects the fetus for whatever reason, the result would be the same regardless of your actions.

Tips for Returning Back to Work After a Miscarriage

Although returning to work while you’re grieving may not sound like a good idea, sometimes it’s necessary when you don’t have any other choice. When it's time to return to work, it may help you seek support outside of the office to help you cope with your grief.

Very few people at work may understand the depth and extent of your loss. You can expect to experience varying emotions as you process your grief, while not very many people at work will be understanding of your needs.

The following tips may help you get through this challenging time when deciding to return to work:

  1. Share only what you’re comfortable sharing.
  2. Not everyone needs to know what you’re suffering through.
  3. Ask a trusted coworker to be your backup when your workload is overwhelming.
  4. Outline your work responsibilities and tackle each one at a time.
  5. Discuss your needs with your immediate supervisor or project manager.

Coping With Loss After Miscarriage

The grief experienced after suffering a miscarriage is very real. The pain of losing a child is the same regardless of when it happened in the pregnancy. You can expect to feel a feeling of deep and profound sorrow for many months afterward.

Some of your closest friends and family may not understand the significance of your loss. Your employer may not even recognize this type of loss as a qualifier for bereavement leave. Nonetheless, losing your baby can be devastating. You know yourself best. Try to be gentle with yourself as you process your grief before returning to work.

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