Someone posted this morning a question about whether to get their boss something to acknowledge his loss after the stillbirthof his child. Co-workers were telling her it was inappropriate, but she wanted to hear from people who have "been there". (The post appears under the heading of "It's the small things that count") Below is my response to her, but I am wondering what others think? Thanks
I always want to stress that everyone is different in how they react to their grief, so what I am saying is how I felt/feel, but obviously I am not your boss.
My gut reaction to your question is that your co-workers are well intentioned, but I would not agree with them. One of the things I hear repeatedly from fathers is stories about going back to work and having everyone act like nothing happened. Not only does no one ask how they are doing, some people avoid them because of their discomfort with the situation, and sometimes rooms even go silent when they walk into a meeting or the lunch room.
I personally think that the real question is WHAT you might get him to acknowledge that you are thinking about him. I own my own company and my employees were wonderful about supporting me. One person even came to the house to visit, and I remember how thoughtful that gesture was and how much it meant to both my wife and I. The others in the office did not buy anything other than a card, but again the gesture meant the world to me and certainly let my wife know they were thinking of her as well.
Depending on a lot of different factors, including what your relationship is normally like with your boss, I would definitely say a card would be appropriate -- and I hope that others in the company may have done something similar. Also, most moms AND dads I know wish that people would use the baby's name when speaking to them about their loss, since one of the biggest fears as a parent is that everyone will forget your child ever existed or that they were not "real" to others-- or at least mattered. So a personalized inexpensive gift with the baby's name would be very nice, in my opinion.
Finally, I would say in the card (or the card that accompanies the gift) that you were not sure what you should do to acknowledge his loss, but that you felt terrible and just really wanted to do something... basically the same thing you said in your post. Honest expressions of feelings are what most of us want or wanted at the time... your boss may be the guy who runs the company, but he is a human being with the same feelings and emotions that others experience.