Parents Campaign for More Leave After Child Loss
"You have 12 weeks off to have a child," Kluger said, "but three days off when a child dies. It doesn't make any sense."
In summer 2011, after receiving letters from Montanans who had also signed Kluger's initiative, Sen. John Tester, D-Montana, proposed the Parental Bereavement Act, which would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to incorporate extended, job-protected leave for the loss of a child.
"The senator was struck by it and, like most people, surprised the law wasn't already taken care of," said a spokesman from Tester's office. "We want to see it pass but we don't have a lot of time left this year."
The average bereavement leave for a person who loses a child is three days, according to Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a researcher at Arizona State University and the founder of the MISS Foundation, which provides support to grieving families. Cacciatore has been studying the emotional, social, cognitive, and economic impact of child death on individuals, families and society for almost 20 years.
"The death of a child is one of the most traumatic experiences a human being can endure," Cacciatore said. "I cannot express to you how incredibly devastating this is to people."
Experts like Cacciatore explain that without giving parents sufficient time to grieve for their loss, companies and corporations will pay for it in the long run.
Researchers at the Grief Recovery Institute, a nonprofit foundation, measured how situations like death and divorce affect U.S. businesses. According to Russell Friedman, executive director of the institute, the current estimated annual loss due to reduced productivity as an aftereffect of grief is around $225 billion.
"When someone we love dies, we lose the ability to concentrate or focus," Friedman said. "Your brain doesn't work right when your heart is broken. That's why businesses lose money."
Three months for bereavement leave is a more realistic standard than three days, according to Cacciatore. After 12 weeks, "people are usually past the stage of being stunned and paralyzed by the loss," she said. "Now they can understand what this loss means."
Image: Grieving woman, via Shutterstock.