I had an absolutely awful weekend. Not only did I have a terrible, full-scale meltdown on Friday (three months since Brock’s birth), but it also forced me into an awkward position where I needed to tell my employer exactly what was going on. That, too, is in the process of ending very poorly.
I’m writing this here so that I don’t say these things to my ex-boss directly, but I have so many volatile thoughts and emotions in response to what they said to me that I need to express how I feel somewhere.
The first thing I want you to know is that you would have spared me a lot of second guessing and self-doubt if you had simply admitted that you did not, in fact, understand my situation. Trust me, I already knew – when I looked at you and saw the face you made as I explained what happened to me yesterday – that you didn’t really comprehend what I was trying to tell you. The way you said “Oh,” almost like you were disappointed in me, when I admitted my deepest, darkest secret to you, keeps haunting me. I initially felt some measure of embarrassment, kind of like shame, that you didn’t seem to feel that taking a day off to mourn my son was a worthwhile venture. Your hesitation when I asked if you could sympathize with where I was coming from disagreed with what you said when you tried to say “Yes”.
It’s okay that you don’t ‘get it’, even though you said you did. That’s a good thing. I am glad you don’t know what it’s like to lose something you loved more than life itself. You are an unattached manager of a food service chain; you are obviously married to your work and, therefore, you don’t have a partner or kids to try and comprehend the loss of. It’s just you. I’m glad that works for you… it’s not right for everyone, but you seem happy enough. I will outright admit that I don’t really understand where you can find satisfaction in working 12 hour days 7 days a week, but everybody is a bit different and has different ambitions, and this is what seems to resonate with you. I hope you can live with the satisfaction of knowing that I could not possibly do what you do for a living, and I am a bit impressed by your resolve. That’s where my respect for you both starts and ends.
I wouldn’t be upset if our discussion had ended there. However, you decided it was your duty to press on. And so, you said, with hesitation, “Yes. I get it. But…”
You went on to belittle me for 10 full minutes because my absence from work lost you some efficiency. You cited arbitrary numbers and said that the shift was harder for you because you made x number of dollars with y number of employees when you were supposed to have z number of employees. I had made countless attempts to contact you earlier on, which would have given you lots of opportunities to fill the spot – how is it my fault that you didn’t see fit to reply to those efforts until later in the day?
As if it weren’t bad enough to be chastised for something that was not my fault (would it have been that difficult to take a spare minute to check who had called when you were finished with that customer? Did it not seem like something might need prudent attention when the phone rang once every 10 minutes for 2 hours straight?), you then went on to thoroughly discredit my right to have emotions. You basically said, in way more words than was necessary, ‘Suck it up’. Yes, it’s very sad that I lost my son, but that is not something I should bring to work (Is this a bad time to point out that I stayed home so that I wouldn’t bring it to work?). My son’s death was not in any way relevant to the business, so it should not affect it in any way. In being hired by you, you said, I made a commitment to do what was asked of me, and nothing should get in the way of having me fill the commitments I had agreed to. You compared my emotional strife to your commitment to managing a third store: you said that, even though it was overwhelming at times, you did not let your frustration get the better of you, and you would not let that frustration keep you from reaching the goal you’d committed to.
Are you fucking kidding me? You are comparing the emotions I go through when trying to come to terms with the death of my child to your day-to-day annoyances managing a fast food store?! Do you have a heart, or are you literally a robot? Are you capable of thinking of things other than profit margins and managerial duties? Did you feel at all bad about the fact that I left that meeting in tears, or did you think you had just delivered a stellar pep talk and I would come back for my next shift and magically be at peace with things? I feel like you expected me to dry my eyes, perk up and say, “You’re right, Boss, it’s not so bad. Grief is a switch and I should just turn it off when it gets inconvenient.” If only life were that simple.
My favourite part was your insistence that, although we can’t control everything that others do, we do have ultimate control over ourselves. Of course, how silly of me. I clearly chose to be sad, and chose to have an entire day where I did very little more than lay in bed and cry. I made the decision to dwell on thoughts of what my son would be doing if he were today, celebrating his three-month birthday, as he should have been. I shouldn’t have let those thoughts make me sad. It was terribly inconsiderate of me to choose to be emotionally bereft; I should have thought of you, and my commitment to your workplace, and walked away from my grief.
The whole time that you were voicing your opinions over what I should do differently in the future, you wouldn’t look at me, and you shifted from foot to foot. You were so very awkward. You obviously had no idea how to handle a situation like this, and I think that being able to see how uncomfortable you were was a big part of the reason why I didn’t fly off the handle on you when you started giving me the world’s worst advice. Your expertise in human relations seems to go as far as not booking employees who don’t get along for the same shift. You are used to dealing with snarky teenage girls, not people with legitimate, real-world issues. Please, believe me when I say that I really regret burdening you with my problems. In the future, I will make sure that I decide to not let my son die so you don’t have to deal with my occasional emotional frailty. Would that make things better?
Okay, I’m done with the sarcasm (I hope you ‘got it’). After all of this, would you believe I actually need to thank you for something? It’s not what you think, though.
As I was laying in bed, thinking over our discussion and feeling ashamed about letting myself grieve my son, I thought about what he would think about all this if he were here – “What would Brock think?” helps me with a lot of my day-to-day decisions now. I’m pretty sure that he would not want to see me being mistreated by my employer – he’d want me to do something that made me happy; he’d like to see me end up somewhere better. I also began to realize that I am not likely to do better than these menial, terrible jobs unless I find a sense of direction. With my husband’s encouragement, I have made the decision to, finally, go to college. I spent the bulk of my day today trying to make up a budget that will let me enroll in a fall semester at a local school, and looking into grants and bursaries I might qualify for.
I also realized that money is not that important, in the grand scheme of things, and we can get by on one income. My husband’s boss is extremely sympathetic to our cause, and encourages my husband to take the time to grieve whenever he needs it. It also pays a lot better. Can you guess which job we decided to cut from the budget?
Thanks for encouraging me to kick-start my life, even though you did it indirectly by being an awful employer!