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Trouble At Work

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I'm sorry all this is happening on top of your grief. Do you have access to counseling services? Is there an EAP (employee assistance program) where you work? Those are usually short-term counseling, but if needed they can refer you to longer-term services. Also....I know this can be difficult for teachers, but what about a short leave of absence? It sounds like you could really use the space and some time away from work...summer break is a long ways away.


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Take a BIG deep breath and sit down, close your eyes and keep taking slow deep breaths.

Now, were you a good teacher before all of this? I'm thinking the answer is yes. You are under a lot of stress right now. If you can afford to take a leave of abscense maybe that would be the best thing to do. Maybe you could go back after St. Pat's day or even Easter.

You apparently have to get this house done and it really getting you down. If you take the leave it will give you time every day to work on it plus help yourself heal. You don't have to work all day every day and maybe you could work in some counseling too. We have a Mental Health Clinic here but I don't know about where you live. Since you're not getting support from family and maybe even if you were an unbiased opinion might be better.

I'm sure if you talk with your principal something can be worked out. Maybe they would even let you work just mornings.

I hope you can find a solution. I'll be praying for you.

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Dear Temmie,

You are corrrect in thinking that there hasn't been enough time to deal with your loss and all the work that goes with it. It is normal to feel pressured to get back into the main stream. It is normal to feel overwhelmed by the paperwork, the housework, the tasks of daily living. It is normal to find difficulty in the simplest routine. It is normal to become scattered and lose focus and feel the criticism. It is normal to want it all to stop, because, quite frankly, life as we know it has and why should the rest of the world continue as "normal?" The world moves at an alarming pace after such a traumatic loss and it is impossible to jump right back into it without missing a beat.

Could it be that the teacher's union and your principals are concerned about you and are recommending additional time off because they care and you are a valued and respected teacher? I jumped back into work after only a week and a half. I thought it was my responsibility to support my family and I was very afraid of losing my job. It was too early and my work was sub-standard and my emotions were crumbling at every turn. My kids were suffering and I was suffering, yet I was doing everything I could to hold on and keep things "normal." Well, there is no normal after death for those of us left to carry on. I felt my co-workers' disappointment in my performance daily and even though it was the best I could muster, I knew it wasn't good enough. So, it came as no great shock that I was fired five months later. My boss didn't suggest a leave, he just called and fired me after I left to get my sick daughter at school.

It was the biggest blessing of my life. I grew up in a strict Irish Catholic family. If we weren't alcoholics, we were workaholics. It was always more important to look like we were coping than to give up or ask for help. There is no way I would have stepped down and my greatest fear came true...for the first time in 35 years I was without a job. It gave me time to embrace my grief. (I know it sounds weird, but that was my decision.) I wanted to cry, to pray, to feel the loss of Bob's love, to pour myself into recovery. And I did. I joined grief groups and prayer groups, and Bible studies and cried through daily masses for over a year. Did it help? Yes, I believe it did. All the while I looked for a new job, fearful I might get one and not be able to handle it, and it took 16 months before an offer even came. When it did, I was ready for it.

I still have more work to do. I still have more tears to shed. I still feel my heart clench at the news of a death. I am changed. My normal is much different than before. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is take time. It can only help.

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Dear ThinkSpring, mlg, and Kath …

So very helpful to rise this morning and find words from you. ((hugs))

I am seeing a therapist through my HMO, but even though we meet every few weeks, it is hard to schedule “crisis” to delay (or occur) around the time of those appointments. I feel, given my history, it would not be a problem to have either the therapist or my primary doc or comp med physician to recommend a leave.

There would be an 11-day period without pay (during which time it would be expected I would use up all my sick leave, of which there is none). Then I would be eligible for a “teachers’ bank” that would give me another 55 days off with full pay and benefits. That would take me up to … around … spring break …. (But it’s still a very difficult decision.)

After spring break, if I wanted (and I believe I could get it approved), I could go on medical disability, which would give me 80-percent of my pay. I took a school year off on disability following two surgeries … and can say, while the break is certainly lovely … this presents a financial hardship, affects career advancement and taxes, as there are no taxes withheld (and would likely have lasting ramifications on my career).

I’ve just borrowed $250 from my son. I have only $6 in my savings account and am paying for groceries with small dollar amount that comes my way with belongings I’m selling out of my parents’ home. Sunday I sold a child’s table and chairs. Last night I sold a conference table. I have a few more desks to go (and a paycheck coming at the end of the month, thank God). With some level of inheritance coming … I suppose before the year is through, I should be okay – but coming back to this job, this school, I don’t know – that could be a real problem. It could also be a problem finding another job with a different school given my history.

I just don’t know.

I was *not* a particularly good teacher “before all of this.” It’s a tough job. I have management problems with my kiddos. I’m working at a new grade level, so all the curriculum is new. I’m trying to make my way through two … giant … texts about based on latest research (which introduces new pedagogy and routines I haven’t mastered). I’ve been placed with a 5-member team (which means with the four teachers who’ve paired off in terms of working together and sharing students and planning time, etc., I’m all by myself). It has not been an ideal situation, and I’ve talked (never do this), in “confidence” with my assistant principal about some of my struggles (and of course, now it’s all coming back to bite me).

[Later note: I felt I should add, of course I’m a good teacher. I have students (and parents) tell me all the time … but I’m not doing *all* the things I’m supposed to be doing, and it’s hard … in this first year in a new grade level.]

The timing is not ideal, by any means … that this new assistant principal would take this occasion to light a fire under my tail. (Why doesn’t he go “pick on” any one of the other teachers in this building? Why can’t he cut me some slack?)

Yes – I understand the concept “because my growth requires it,” but it is a tough situation, and at a very tough time.

Principals are not recommending additional time off. I think they would prefer that I resign. The teachers’ union … who helps protect our contracts … is suggesting it as an option.

I will think and pray on these things …. First … I have to get through those report cards. But at the same time? I think I’ll make an appointment to see one of my docs (therapy appointment on Monday), and … we’ll see … about taking some time. This certainly feels like the most shaky financial time I’ve been through.

Everything feels scary.

Thanks for your help, everyone, and for your words of kindness, encouragement, and prayer.


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Dearest Temmie,

I am so very sorry for what you are facing now, I sorry that the school is adding so much stress to you above the stress and grief you are facing at this time... Maybe if you can, take some time off or if there is a parent helper you can trust to help you with some of the jobs that have to be done... I know that in our school we have parent reps for each class and maybe the principal can give them some of the jobs that you are responsible for so that you can feel less stress and still be able to cope...Here are some giant hugs and know that you are in my prayers... Shelley

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Dealing with the death of a loved on is not easy. I have just been through it and no one seems to understand.

Not your own family or friends, my co workers were the worst.

See my dad was 96 and to then they all said well his time was up or he lived a good life, and yes that is true he did live a good life but it does not make things any easier.

I took one week off when dad died and even coming back to work I was not functioning.

No one understood. They expected me to be over it in a week. Same thing with my husband he did not understand either.

Its like the funeral is over and so is the mourning now get on with your life.

But its not so easy.

I had to take two more weeks off for stress leave and I asked my doctor for some medications to help my brain get back on track, and I was not a functioning person.

And he put me in touch with a therapist who I have been seeing since June.

Without my doctor and my therapist I would be in a big mess.

My advice is take some time for you, Dont worry about your coworkers who dont understand. Get a doctors note and take some time off. They cant reprimand you for being ill with a doctors note.

You have to take care of youreself before you can take care of anyone else.

Good luck and take care

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I know what you are going thru. I found a great site called Remember The Milk to organize my lists of million of things to get done. It breaks it down into personal work and others. My boss has been at the hub for the past 3 weeks and keeps saying that he is helping. I sent him the list of what he had given me to change in the past 2 weeks and it had 48 items. When he saw it in that format, he stopped, looked, and said no wonder you are under so much stress.....might help you.

I too have thought about dying, but then I asked for God's help. It helped to find peace in accepting that we are not alone and that it is great to be less then perfect at this time in our lives. If you need to take more time, thank your boss for the opportunity to have that time. I wish that I had taken up that offer from HR 2 months ago and will be asking on Monday for a few days when I get a new assistant. Mine quit 2 weeks after dad died.

You are loved and you are not alone. Take one task at a time and just finish it. Cross it off the list, breath, and tackle the next one. Then stop and take another long warm bath and rejoice in what you did accomplish and don't worry about whats left. You can tackle that when your strength is up a bit.

One step at a time.


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Thank you ALL ...

I don't know enough about navigating this site to respond to you all personally.

* * * * *

Yesterday was the one-month date of when I last saw my dad. Christmas.

Today it is one month since I rushed to his side.

* * * * *

You are all right ... that it is all very hard ... the loss of family doesn't spark understanding ... and that it takes time.

Saturday evening I went to our "holiday" get-together at a local restaurant. Oh my! I'd forgotten (as a younger thing), parties are occasions when women trot out their cleavage and jewelry. (I so don't fit at this school or with this group.)

Someone asked, "How are you doing," and when I replied, "I've been better," I realized ... they just meant "in general." They had no thoughts or concerns (and perhaps no remembrance) about my father's passing. (Or my mom's 10 month's before.)


I have decided -- in terms of preserving career -- I cannot take a leave from work. It won't be long until we have spring break ... and then it won't be long until summer. And all through this time, I'll certainly take days if and when I need them (but I'll also be looking for a new job with a different school as positions are posted ... more coming into view in April, May and June.)

I still ... awake ... feeling as though a bomb has gone off in my chest. I use prayer, visualization, Light ... anything and everything I can think of to dissolve that grief ... but it stays there like a horrible weight and pain.

I so treasure your company here. All of you. Your words of solace bring a great comfort.

Bless all who visit here ... and however we pray, God's grace keep us upright and strong.


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