What about the boss?

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.


  1. Wow, I completely agree. My DH is a logger, the site boss of several guys, and not one of them said anything to him after the loss of our twins. Every one of them knew what had happened, too. It made spending 10-12 hours a day at work those first few weeks after the loss especially difficult on him. It means the world to have our pain acknowledged, and a card is certainly appropriate.

  2. I agree - a card is wonderful to receive to acknowledge one's loss.

    One thing I've heard from my husband is that co-workers might ask how I was doing, but they didn't always ask how HE was doing. So along with a card, if possible/feels appropriate, I would encourage someone to ask how the father is doing.

  3. Thanks everyone, so much. I wrote the original question. I was planning on getting him something like an abstract painting, but I will just do a card and give it to him around the holidays. I don't know him all that well because I'm a pretty new employee, but he's an awesome boss and I hate to think that HE thinks no one is thinking about him. We all pitched in for flowers the day we heard the news. I just want him to know that it's still on my mind.

    I really really appreciate your taking the time to post about this and those of you who commented.

  4. I agree that it bothered me more that no one acknowledged my loss than those that made odd comments. I am not sure people realize the little bits of time someone took to ask me how I was or simply say sorry for your loss makes a difference. whether it is a card or flowers...the gift matters less that the thought that someone else took time from their day to care.

  5. I completely agree with your response. My husbands work sent a card along with donations from everyone to help with funeral expenses and the time he took off of work. It meant a lot to us to be acknowledged and have such a thoughtful gesture come our way. To even have a co-worker ask how you are, how you're hanging in and if you need anything means a lot. We also had people show up with casseroles, which surprisingly helped since I was not in any state of function and my husband was filling my role for a while.

  6. If it feels like a comfortable thing to do, I would also suggest adding the date of the baby's birth/loss to your calendar and remembering the date each year to the father then, too.

  7. Thanks. I'm planning to. By that point I'll have a much longer relationship with him, so I can feel out better whether it's appropriate.

  8. I think that when you are moved to do something for someone, it won't take long to see what they need. Pay attention, and find something tangible. I love the cards, and flowers we received, but they were eventually put away and died. My favorite gifts were plants that I can keep nuturing in my daughter's memory.

  9. This is good advice. Thanks.

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  11. I'm a little late in joining this conversation but I want to say that my coworkers were exceptionally kind when my baby boy died this past August. My immediate group of co-workers sent us a large bouquet of flowers and a bereavement card. And my manager sent me a lovely card and a beautiful peace plant. Just their acknowledgement of Kerian's short life was extremely helpful to me.

    I would definitely do the same thing for my boss, even if he or she was new to my working life. You don't need to gush or say too much, and just saying, "I'm so sorry," and giving a plant or flowers at least shows a kind gesture.

    I would have felt crushed if nobody said anything to me at all after Kerian died. Doing something, even if it's just simple and modest, is better than saying/doing nothing at all.

    Thanks Tim, for this wonderful blog, and for the book you published. A friend sent my husband a copy of your book and it was very helpful to my husband when our son died.


  12. This blog is great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much.


  13. I really love the suggestion about adding the baby's birth date to your calendar. Yes, please do this! My father is the only one out of all my family and friends who sends a card to this day, 8 years on.

    As for the boss... how can such a life-changing event go unacknowledged? Yes, he is your boss. But as you say in the post in answer to this difficult question, one of the hardest things is to return to the workplace and have life go on as if nothing ever happened. It's difficult beyond imagining. But so is knowing the 'correct etiquette' - thing is, because grief is so unique to everyone, there is no finite rule. I always say, go with your heart. I really appreciate your blog, Tim, and visit it on and off (as well as link to it from mine) when I need to understand my partner's ongoing processing.

  14. I agree with what's been said about how valuable it is to show support. When we had our third miscarriage a couple years ago, I sent a note to my immediate supervisors to say "Last time this happened I was in a mental haze for about six months. Please keep on my case if you need something from me, because I expect to have lower productivity for a while." One fellow came by my desk and we talked for about an hour. Several others simply said "I'm sorry." It was all helpful.

    I also agree with making a point to affirm that it is your boss's loss, and not just his wife's. In hindsight, I probably could have been much more irritated than I was by the "how is your wife doing" questions.

  15. I am a mother, who lost a nine month old baby last summer. I was also the boss. A pretty good and fair one at that. When I came back to work. Nobody said a thing. Like it never happened. Like I had just come back from a vacation. It was one of the most painful things that happened after losing my son. I actually have only been back twice since then. Twice - in nine months. That's how hurtful it was. I never want to see any of them again. Don't ignore it is what I would say. It is appropriate to acknowledge another person's pain...even if it is your boss. Bosses are humans too.

  16. A card is defiantly appropriate. But most of all, mentioning the child later. My coworkers were great at first, but now as two years approaches only one of them has even acknowledged the fact. We remember our children, we just want to know that you remember them, too.

  17. Such a tough moment. But no choice but to face it.

  18. Hi-I am not a dad but a mom. My husband and I lost our twin daughters Aubrey and Ellie a few week after they were born in 2008 so we are acquainted with grief. I read this post and wanted to address your question of WHAT do you get for someone that is appropriate after the loss of their child/infant and I wanted to make a recommendation. This question is close to my heart as I felt the well intentioned people got us the wrong gifts and even cards-although a good idea-had hurtful and/or insensitive things written in them. So I decided to create what I think is an appropriate gift for a grieving person. I started a company called Teamotions (www.teamotionstea.com). I blend tea with powerful and safe herbs called adaptogens. Adaptogens help the body cope with stress and restore physical and emotional balance to offer both physical and emotional comfort and healing in the form of a delicious tea. And when I say delicious I mean award winningly delicious. I have six teas-one for each stage of grief, and each comes in a gift box which includes a tin of loose leaf tea, a mug with infuser basket and lid, and a scoop. And each gift box is APPROPRIATE for a man or a woman-no frilly tea here-just a truly thoughtful and healing gift. There is a picture of our Seek Peace gift box on the home page of our website-it is picture #5 in the scrolling picture box and the rest of them are in the shop now section. I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions feel free to email me at Rachel@teamotionstea.com.

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  20. Yep silent rooms, never the mention of my Isabella's name. sorry for your loss. She wasn't my loss, she was My Daughter. One thing I discovered was I didt have a family or friends. They desert in their droves. because it's to hard for them. Thats not what any Parent wants

  21. "he is a human being with the same feelings and emotions that others experience." Yes, I completely agree with this valuable suggestion. The person whoever he is has some feelings & emotion. A person should have fathers rights because he is a father also.

  22. This has recently happened to my wife and me. get a gift. it means a lot to the family.

  23. Yep I agree, get him a gift that acknowledges his loss and the loss of a life full of posibilites and potential. That is what I'm finding the hardest about the death of my newborn son.

  24. I would like to join this group. My wife and I lost our Daughter Abigail 24 January 2013. She died at 35 weeks with no explanation medically. My wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy 10 March 2014 and I really love him, I still see the face of my girl when I look at him and I am hesitant to make a connection. What do I do? JD

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