A Mother's Loving Care - Managing Grief in the Workplace



Kaitlin Kurdyla talks about discovering her baby’s cancer two weeks after returning to work after maternity leave and the support system that carried her through such a difficult time.

Kaitlin thought a formula change would eliminate the belly discomfort her daughter was experiencing. When an ultrasound was suggested to rule out any underlying problems, Kaitlin thought nothing about it. Thirty minutes later and a cancer diagnosis forever changed Katlin’s life. The baby’s surgery, the first of many, was scheduled for the next morning. The biopsy showed extensive cancer with a 10% chance of survival.

I so appreciated it when my work peers would acknowledge that they knew or just offered “you're in my thoughts” words of comfort.  Even when people got upset and I ended up having to console them, that it was okay. That was just someone that actually show that they really cared".

Kaitlin used accumulated sick time and vacation time to manage her time at the hospital even returning to work the day after her daughter had surgery. She never took unexpected time off as the treatments progressed even scheduling surgeries around work. Little support came from her managers or peers who had heard about the diagnosis but were reluctant to speak to Kaitlin. So many pretended that they didn’t know or just were at a loss as to what to say to her. No one in management ever reached out and said “I’m sorry to hear that or would you like to discuss your family leave options.”

She says “I held this huge weight of stress just feeling like I had to keep coming in every day and even though I had researched on my own about the FMLA laws, I was always so worried to take it because I was worried that I would need it more at a future time. So I would literally take one day, one hour at a time and say to myself “I will be ok if I can make it work today. I’m going to make it work. I’m a single parent. She’s on my health insurance. I needed this job.

I knew people knew. When I walked into a room I knew what they were talking about and the conversation would stop. Other people would come to my office and say “I heard about your daughter and it is so sad,” and then they would get choked up. I ended up consoling them; so it got to be very draining.

Listen as she discusses what would have helped her reduce her stress level at work by knowing that her manager supported her, being offered some guidance through the company medical maze as well as how her peers could have been a support system for her.

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