A Crash Course on Workplace Re-Entry

By Rebeldad Brian Reid

One of the classic arguments against taking time away from career to raise kids is that even a few short years out of the workforce is enough to seriously damage long-term earning potential and professional advancement. For some, it's getting mommy-tracked (or daddy-tracked), and others don't even make it that far -- just getting back into the workforce is a significant obstacle.

But if you have three days open in January, an advanced degree (MBA, JD, MA, or MBA) and $1,175, Baruch College in New York has a program for you: "Opting Back In," a program designed to allow participants to leave with:

  • A professional-looking updated resume
  • A personalized plan of action to return to work
  • A personal pitch
  • Refreshed negotiation skills
  • A support network of like-minded individuals looking to return to work

The cynical part of me scoffs at the whole deal: I can't imagine that advanced degree holders are being held back by rusty negotiating skills or crude resumes. I can see the point of doing some continuing education and boning up on advances in your given field, but penning "a personalized plan of action?" And while I'm sure everyone will go home energized, I have to wonder if there are better ways to spend three days and 1,200 clams.

But on a society-wide level, I Iove this. The bottom-line goal is an out-and-out rejection of the idea that people who take a few years out of the paid workforce are somehow damaged goods. It builds off one of my favorite books of the last few years, "If You've Raised Kids, You Can Manage Anything," by Ann Crittenden. Convincing parents that they'd make stellar employees is only part of it. The Baruch program includes some perspective from panelists who come from the "hiring side" of things, and I sure hope that those people on the hiring side are also spreading the word to their colleagues.

As usual, I'd love it if washingtonpost.com could save you readers the $1,175 -- feel free to comment below on any successful strategies you've seen on "opting back in."

Brian Reid writes about parenting and work-family balance. You can read his blog at rebeldad.com.

By Brian Reid |  November 29, 2007; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Tips , Workplaces
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Cynicism aside, one of the values of these re-entry programs is that they signal to employers that you are serious enough about getting back in to have invested time and money in yourself. It's a classic educational "stamp on the forehead" that shows you want back in. It's also a good way to get help with building a resume with gaps on it, refresh interviewing skills, and network. I am in favor -- and glad that more and more of these programs exist, because I think they can really help people who've been home with kids rebuild their confidence and refresh their workplace skills.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 29, 2007 7:45 AM

Opting-back in to the workplace can be a bit daunting, even if you've got that advanced degree! Here are a few things we've observed as we've worked with opt-in professionals over the last few years:

(1) A skills-based resume is a great way to de-emphasis time out of the workforce and emphasize your skills. If you don't have a skills-based resume (also called a functional resume), consider putting the time into reworking your resume (and don't forget to include your volunteer work - running a 80 person PTA with a $60k budget certainly used your leadership skills!).

(2) Figure out your deal-breakers. What are the must-haves on your re-entry back into the workforce (a certain salary minimum, a certain schedule) and what items are you willing to negotiate? Identifying these things upfront will keep you from heading down paths that might not be the ones that you want to be on and it will give you confidence as you begin talking with potential employers.

(3) NETWORK (can't say enough about this, especially living in the relationship-oriented South!). Get involved in professional organizations or community volunteer groups. A couple caveats on networking: (1) Networking is a 2-way street, it's not about simply circulating the most business cards! You'll want to spend as much time (or more) listening as you do talking; (2) Instead of joining numerous organizations, pick a few and really give them your time; (3) Don't limit your networking to formal events - you never know if that parent on the soccer sideline might know someone who works at your dream company!

Posted by: maryanne | November 29, 2007 7:47 AM

When we look at resumes from engineering types who are "opting back in", major factors are:

1 - skills, and how current. What have you done while you were out of the workforce to keep up with new developments - web technologies, programming languages, systems design, etc. Your degree from 10 years ago just isn't current.

2 - do you *really* want to get back in, and what have you done to demonstrate that? Recent classes that you've taken on your own initiative, volunteer work in the area (e.g., being the systems administrator for a school with a good-sized network will help you, if that's the kind of work you're looking for)

3 - do you have a good understanding of what job/career path you're looking for? If you're looking to jump back in at a very senior level after five years out, it's probably not going to happen. But if you're willing to come back in at a mid-level with an opportunity to advance to senior after you've proven yourself in our environment, we can work with that.

(This also relates to, do you want to come back onto a gung-ho career track, or do you want to come back as a mid-level and stay there, with no interest in management/chief scientist-type jobs? There's nothing wrong with the latter; we certainly need several people like that, but it helps if you know and make it clear to us.)

The bottom line is that, in many engineering-type career fields, there just aren't anywhere near enough qualified people to go around, and we'd be foolish to reject out of hand anyone who took a few years off for family (or other reasons). But you have to show us that you WANT to come back and you understand the current "lay of the land."

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 29, 2007 8:16 AM

A while back, this blog linked to an article that described, among other things, a former SAHM who took a temporary unpaid internship in her field (she was a lawyer) as a way of getting back into the workforce. It allowed her to refresh her skills, make new contacts, and put something recent on her resume.

That sounded like a good plan. Has anyone else ever tried anything like that? The article didn't say whether it had helped her get a new paying job.

Posted by: barfster | November 29, 2007 8:37 AM

It all depends on the field you're trying to re-enter. ArmyBrat has it right about the engieering field; there's not enough engineers now, so women who take time off for children usually can step right back into their career without too much trouble. Many consultant firms, in fact, will make accomodations for them such as reduced hours, working from home, and
in-office daycare. As long as their skills are still relevent (don't come in with a 10 year gap and expect to jump right back in) being rehired somewhere is not a problem.

Posted by: johnl | November 29, 2007 9:02 AM

barfster -- i spoke to a group called FlexTime Lawyers yesterday in NY, and one of the attendees was Amy Gerwitz, the associate director of Pace University School of Law, who runs the re-entry program mentioned in the NYT that Amy Liss attended. i don't know the follow-up on her re-entry, but i cannot imagine that an internship as in-house counsel at Juillard HURT her resume! i bet it helped a ton. References, too.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 29, 2007 9:27 AM

Hasn't this topic been done to death in this blog? Recently? I'm sure it's difficult to come up with new spins on the range of applicable topics, but the creativity of the Mommy Tattoos blog shows that at least Leslie "gets" that interesting, novel, and conversation-generating are related concepts. Brian needs a break from this once-per-week gig.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 29, 2007 10:48 AM


given that this topic has been covered ad nauseum, and it's already 11 am and there's only 7 comments so far, here's my attempt at entirely jumping the shark:

how do you cope with anger?

I lost my baby at nine weeks, at the end of May. It was a partial molar pregnancy, which meant that not only did I lose the baby but I also faced possible cancer for a few months following, which required blood tests and waiting. I was incredibly raw for a long time but have recently been doing better. My due date was Dec 21st, so I'm a little worried about being a wreck in a few weeks, but I've arranged a special Mass at my church that evening for people grieving, so i think that will help.

Yesterday my SIL called and chatted at me for over an hour about her friend. My SIL has a number of health problems, and she was talking on and on about how insensitive her friend was to how hard this year has been for her, etc, etc. And the whole time I was somewhat incredulously thinking, "MY BADY DIED!!!!!!! WTF is wrong with you that you would DARE complain to ME about these petty problems and talk about what a hard year you've had?!!!"

I managed to listen patiently and then get off the phone politely. But I'm still feeling pretty pissed and surprised by the whole conversation.

On one hand, my SIL does have a number of health problems, she's 33 and still single, she feels like she'll never meet anyone or get to have kids. So in some ways her story is sadder than mine. I met my DH when I was 22, knew immediately he was the love of my life, we got married, and have lived happily ever after until our tragedy with our first pregnancy this year. And I'm still young (27) and feel confident that I'll get to have more children with my DH.

But, still, MY BABY DIED!!!! what could possibly be sadder than that?! and yet, I know, so many people have sadder stories than mine.

How do all of you cope with people seeking sympathy for problems that seem completely insignificant in the face of your tragedies? I don't want to come across as more-tragic-than-thou to her or to others, and I don't want to be angry and bitter about the situation either.

Thanks for any insights.

Posted by: newslinks1 | November 29, 2007 11:01 AM


Frieda and I are sorry to hear of your loss. Frieda has had clients whose babies have died. She recommends Compassionate Friends.


Grief Support After the Death of a Child
The mission of The Compassionate Friends is to assist families toward the positive resolution of grief following the death of a child of any age and to provide information to help others be supportive.

The Compassionate Friends is a national nonprofit, self-help support organization that offers friendship, understanding, and hope to bereaved parents, grandparents and siblings. There is no religious affiliation and there are no membership dues or fees.

The secret of TCF's success is simple: As seasoned grievers reach out to the newly bereaved, energy that has been directed inward begins to flow outward and both are helped to heal. The vision of The Compassionate Friends is that everyone who needs us will find us and everyone who finds us will be helped.

Posted by: Fred | November 29, 2007 11:20 AM

newslinks1, I am sorry for your loss.

One thing I have learned as I have aged oh so gracefully (haha) is that most people do not intentionally hurt you. People say stupid things and do dumb things every day without malice, simply without thought.
Instead of getting upset or angry we should give them the benefit of the doubt and hope that they were suffering from what my dad used to call "constipation of the brain and diarrhea of the vocal cords".
I have found it harder but infinitely more helpful to tell the person that what they just said/did hurt your feelings. If they don't know how they affect you then they might continue to do so and in fact might feel terrible once they find out about the continued hurts.
Please tell your SIL how you feel rather than resent her which can only be bad for your long-term relationships with your hurband's family.

Posted by: jackdmom | November 29, 2007 11:36 AM

BTW - jackdmom is really KLBSSMD.

Posted by: jackdmom | November 29, 2007 11:37 AM

newslinks1- I can address this from a couple points of view. When I was in grad school, my fiance was killed in a car accident. It was horrible, as you can imagine. At the same time my best girlfriend at school had been broken up with by her first love and was devastated. I had a REALLY hard time relating to her pain until an old friend gave me a bit of advice. Everyone has their greatest pain, and instead of comparing your greatest pain to theirs, look at it as their greatest pain. Second, I lost a pregnancy at 10 weeks, though, thankfully it wasn't a molar pregnancy. Meanwhile, life went on. People still complained or went on to have babies or buried their loved ones. It's your pain. She has her pain. You can't compare the 2.

In the meantime, you might want to hit the babycenter bulletin boards on pregnancy loss. They are organized by the date of your loss. I'm part of one of the 2006 boards. I love those girls.

Posted by: atb2 | November 29, 2007 11:43 AM

newslinks -- i am so sorry about the loss of your baby, and the cancer scare that went along with it. you are right that something so devastating makes standard "work life balance" issues pretty meaningless.

miscarriage is common but you never hear anything about it until you go through one. people say and do incredibly insensitive things by accident, but understanding that doesn't make it hurt much less. i would be incredibly angry and afraid if i were you -- i sympathize with what you are feeling.

the silver lining that i see is that you are DEALING with all this now. many people would just try to supress it or drink it away. i think you will feel a whole lot better once 2008 is here and you can say good riddance to a lousy 2007. thanks for sharing.

Posted by: leslie4 | November 29, 2007 11:49 AM

I am so sorry for your loss, newslinks. Everyone here is correct - most people just don't know what to say. After my mom passed away, people really had no idea (oh, I had one friend who told me it was just too much for her to deal with me cause it reminded her that her parents might die someday and that was way too much for her to deal with).
Or people are sad for you and they don't know how to deal with it - I was youngish and knew no one with parents who had passed (still don't know too many - it's really strange ot me when I see people who are in their 50s or whatever and are just losing their first parent - since my mom's been gone for over 10 years and I'm not yet 40). So people really just didn't know what to say.
It was refreshing when I was out somewhere and a close friend was there and we were talking about whatever and in a group of people and mentioned something or other about my mom passing away (she had passed at most 2 months ago at that time) - and my friend said: well, it's nothing to have a heart attack over. And we both started cracking up - and everyone around us was *appalled*! Well, the backstory on that is my step dad passed away two weeks after my mom did - of a heart attack. It was refreshing that someone near to me could actually laugh with me.
But really - I had great support around me - my friend actually did my laundry while I was going to the funeral/grieving back where I grew up. People don't always know what to say - and again, they then say stupid things but don't really know how stupid til later (if ever).

And, Leslie, after the year of losing my mom, stepdad, and job, you'd think it would be fine to say bye to it. But really, that new year's eve, when my roommate and I were throwing a party - at midnight, I started crying my eyes - realizing that would be the last year in which I would see my mom. So you never know...

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 29, 2007 12:08 PM

Several months after my sainted mother died, I was in a mall and saw some object. I thought, "That is perfect for mom!" then "Oh, s***, mom is dead!" I had actually forgotten for a brief moment.

My point is that you will always remember your baby. I once saw a lady who was crying about her deceased brother as if he had died the day before. In fact, he had died 30 years prior. I just hope that you can come to a place where grief will not overcome you.

Posted by: Fred | November 29, 2007 12:22 PM

newslinks1 - I lost my baby 4 days after a full-term delivery (cord accident), so I know a lot about the grief/rage thing. Just some thoughts:

1. I read in a newsletter on bereavement that most people's attention span for other people's losses is about 6 weeks long. That matches my experience. It is very hard when you are the person going through the grief, but just be aware that that is kind of the external reality.

I don't want to preach at you when you're suffering or anything and you have a right to be angry at your SIL's boneheaded remark. I remember a few moments like that; one of the ones that stands out was the summer directly after losing Emily, my SIL and I were hanging out talking and she was talking about her son's having a febrile seizure and that it was the worst thing ever. My daughter had had constant seizures during her life, plus, she died, and for some reason that comment just about killed me - I had to literally walk away. But ultimately (here is the slight preach) people are human and are going to say idiotic things, and if you can eventually find a way to (mostly) let it go, it may ease your daily life.

2. I found working out (once I was recovered from what was a really horrific L&D) helped me to manage the anger, as did some creative things (writing, painting). Note the word manage. It didn't make it go away. It just made me less likely to blow up when I didn't want to.

You have a right to be angry in general; a really terrible thing happened to you.

3. It will be really hard as you pass your due date, from what I understand from people in my bereavement group, and for me I found the whole first year was a minefield, the second year a little less (except for the obvious birth and death week), and so on. It is fine to honour that. I am glad you have plans for your due date.

4. My condolences on your loss, it is very hard.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | November 29, 2007 12:25 PM

Let me add my voice of sympathy to the others -- I can't imagine what it's like to walk into the holiday season after having been through the fire like that this year. I think the suggestion to connect with people who've been there is a good one. The rest of us really can't understand what you went through and continue to go through -- it is almost too scary for most of us to contemplate. Sometimes it is a matter of finding the right people to turn to -- which of your friends and family can listen and accept your feelings right now. Then recognize that other folks just can't be there for you -- at least not right now.

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 29, 2007 12:27 PM

On the actual topic - I used to work for an agency that did this kind of employment workshop. $1200 seems a little pricey, but it may be good for people to get their employment search skills up to date.

However, beyond that, I don't think they're useful. Teaching someone how to reformat their resume will not do a thing for them in their field. (Also, in Canada where I was, they are free through HRDC, so be aware of that, Canadians. :))

As an employer I would not take it as a sign of their commitment to their field - I would take a course IN THEIR FIELD as a sign of being current and committed.

I think on-ramps are really industry-specific.

Also, I don't think that courses like these are sign that these people are not considered "damaged goods."

Quite honestly if you have a MBA and you need three days of coaching on negotiating and how to format your resume, I have to wonder a bit about your skills already.

Posted by: shandra_lemarath | November 29, 2007 12:30 PM

newslinks - I agree with atb - try to remember that the worst thing that has ever happend to you is the worst thing that has ever happened to you regardless of other experiences. This applies both to you and your SIL. I think the babycenter boards would be super for you. I also think that telling your sil that you are in so much pain yourself that are sorry but you don't have the emotional capacity to help her heal while you are still so wounded yourself. Better to be square than only be there for her halfway and grow resentful. Good luck, that sure is a lousy deal! I have a friend who lost a baby at 5 mos. and now has two lovely daughters. She will never forget that baby, but she has been able to move forward. Hang in there.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 29, 2007 12:30 PM

So sorry for your loss--wish I had some magic solution for you but unfortunately I guess the reality is that it's less about people not being understanding as it is about it just being sad. Nothing anyone could say could take away your pain. I agree, though, that it might help to find a board of people who have gone through something similar so they can relate more than the average person.

As far as this blog post, I am totally cynical when it comes to this subject. Of anyone looking to re-enter the workforce, someone with an advanced degree has a LOT less to worry about than someone without one. Hello--what about the millions of women who DON'T have an advanced degree--or even an undergraduate degree--but want or need to go back to the working world after being home? Maybe I'm oversensitive about this but it seems incredibly elitist to limit something like this--which would clearly be totally applicable to anyone looking to re-enter the workforce--to people who have advanced degrees. There are PLENTY of jobs in the world that don't require an advanced degree.

If I had the time or the inclination I would design a program exactly like this for non-lawers, doctors or MBAs; I could probably make a fortune because those are the people who actually need this advice and guidance the most.

Posted by: maggielmcg | November 29, 2007 12:34 PM

newslinks, I forgot to add - you have a right to be angry. You have been dealt a very bad hand. Don't feel like you shouldn't be, you'll just make yourself sick. Life is unfair, you and your child got a raw deal. I agree that exercise will be helpful to purge yourself. YOu don't want to be consumed by the anger, but my goodness you are entitled to shake your fist at the Gods, at least for awhile.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | November 29, 2007 12:35 PM

I'm so sorry for your loss. I think it's normal to be angry after a loss (isn't it one of the 5 stages of grief?) ATB2 gives very good advice about not comparing your grief/pain to someone else's. That's hard to actually practice, but it is good advice.

I had a baby die at 9 weeks. This was after years of infertility. It was devistating.

I'm at the other end now, and while I still think about my first baby regularly, the grief isn't overwhelming like it once was. The biggest thing I learned is this:

Don't deny your feelings. Grief is messy and you just have to work through it. You'll be done when you're done, and there's no timetable. Sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes it doesn't. But if you pretend it's not there it will come back in inappropriate and surprising ways. And don't let anyone try to tell you when you should be over it. Only you know when it's time to let go.

Again, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Posted by: tcarpowich | November 29, 2007 12:38 PM

newslinks --

I am so sorry. We had 3 miscarriages ourselves (though not molar), so I understand what you're going through. But your SIL probably doesn't. Most people who who haven't been through it don't understand how real that baby feels to you, even only a few weeks along. Or how much you're mourning the loss of your dreams as much as you're mourning the baby. Most people just think it's not a real baby yet, that you can always have another one, so what's the big deal -- give it a few months and go back at it, right? It's not malice; it's just that they've never had to deal with it themselves, so they can't even comprehend that you could still be mouring 6 months later. So please be gentle with your SIL.

In my experience, the way you deal with that kind of anger is to deal with what you're really mad at. Hint: it's not your SIL. After my second M/C, I got so deep-down, white-hot, full of rage that I couldn't even talk about it for several weeks. I was mad at God, or fate, or whatever you want to call it -- mad that I could be the "good" girl my whole life, play by all the rules, do everything "right," and have my babies taken from me, while 14-yr-olds are out getting pregnant and dumping the babies they don't want in the trash. My faith -- in everything -- was shaken very badly. And the only way I know to deal with that is to talk to someone -- a counselor, a priest, a psychologist, etc.

Just my story; you may be different. But if you're still getting that shaking angry over someone being insensitive, it might be worth at least going to talk to someone a couple of times.

Posted by: laura33 | November 29, 2007 12:55 PM

newslinks- One more thing. Miscarriage is weird. You knew that baby, others didn't. It's kind of a lonely grief. That's why the babycenter grief and loss boards are such a comfort. It's also why I don't think people are intentionally being insensitive or rude. They just don't get it. And people respond very differently to loss, and to miscarriage in particular, so even talking to other people who've had miscarriages may be odd. If people are posting to grief and loss boards, you can be pretty sure they feel as you do. I'll stop now.

Posted by: atb2 | November 29, 2007 12:56 PM

Newlinks, I would recommend that you follow Fred's advice, get in touch with Compassionate Friends or someone you can talk this out with in a caring and devoted manner.
Here's a link you might like
Your SIL is being insensitive, but it's human nature to think of yourself first so try to forgive her. Focusing on your anger will just make you feel more alone. I grew up in a household where discussing hurt feelings was not encouraged, and the truth is that some people are just not good at being aware of and/or focused on other people's emotions. Alot of folks have issues coping with their own feelings and adding other people's concerns to their own can be overwhelming to them.

It takes time and insight to process the kind of grief that you have, but you will get there. Be compassionate with yourself. You are important and your grief is important, even if your SIL seems to have forgotten this. Take care of yourself.

Posted by: pinkoleander | November 29, 2007 1:02 PM

newslinks1: the responses to your comment are this blog at its best. I can only add the DH lost his dad around the Christmas holiday more than 30 years ago. Our best friends' lost their 19 year old son in May. Neither wound heals, although it changes. Those of us who haven't dealt with these kinds of unanticipated life-changing losses need guidance from those of you who have to help us give you what you need. We don't want to make you cry by raising the subject unless you want it raised. We may mistakenly apply the Golden Rule and treat you as we imagine we might want to be treated - but what we might want is irrelevant to what you want. Sure there are jerks, and your SIL may well be one, but as KLB says, most of the time most of us blunder into your pain by accident and are merely clueless. Enlighten us.

and what laura said.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 29, 2007 1:10 PM

I participate in an online miscarriage support group, and it's been incredibly loving and supportive and is without question the primary thing that got me through the first few awful awful weeks. As time goes on, I lurk on the board less and less, but still find the ladies there amazing beyond words.

Fred: thanks for your kind words and the reference to The Compassionate Friends.

KLBSSMD: thanks for your kind words and the thought that direct confrontation, while initially harder, is ultimately better for all. I'll give that some thought.
My SIL has a history of being incredibly self-centered. She goes from one tragedy to the next, whether it's job complications or boyfriends or health issues, and expects for us to be her captive audience. We generally play along, but this summer me and my DH fell off the face of the planet. I knew she was resentful about that, so I finally sent her an email last month explaining that I'd miscarried and that was why we'd been out of touch. I apologized for not being there for her, since I'd known she was dealing with difficult issues of her own, and explained that I just hadn't been strong enough emotionally to cope with my own problems and help her with hers. She responded very sweetly, and since then has gone on to her usual behavior.

atb2: I see why you found that advice helpful, but I gotta say that some things just truly are more awful than others. I just think it's total BS to say that your friend's breakup was as deserving of sympathy as the death of your fiance! I'm glad the advice helped you, but I really think some things are inherently more deserving of sympathy than others. so i feel less deserving of sympathy than someone who lost her baby at 20 weeks, or had a stillbirth, or lost a child at the age of 5, etc, etc. and i also think my SIL is less deserving of sympathy than me.

Leslie: yes, in general i'm coping much better now. Excessive drinking certainly played its helpful role early on after the loss! :)

AtlMom: I LOVE your story about "it's nothing to have a heart attack over!" My best friend's mom had cancer and her dad died of a terminal lung disease, and our shared dark humor about it made coping much easier. sometimes you gotta see the humor or immediately go and jump off a cliff.

Shandra: interesting statistic about how 6 weeks is how long other people's losses stay on people's radar screens. That's very helpful info.

I'm generally incredibly easy-going (my favorite advice to couples is to let 16 out of 17 things go--it's not about being a pushover but about deciding which things are actually worth being upset over).
Miscarrying has impacted my generally sunny attitude.

Anne--yes, I know better than to ask my SIL for sympathy. I have other people for those conversations. It's just hard when she's asking ME for sympathy, with no apparent indication that she even remembers my miscarriage.

Moxiemom--thanks, that approach was basically what I took when I sent her the initial email. (Because I knew she was resentful that I hadn't been there for her over the summer and I wanted to explain why.)

tcarpowich--thanks for the advice, from someone who's been there.

Laura, thanks! You're absolutely correct that the underlying issues are those. But the surface anger at my SIL is also real, just less important than the real anger.

PinkOleander, thanks for the kind words. :)

thanks, mn.188. I'm going to email my SIL today and let her know that dec 21st would have been my due date and that i'm having a tough time coping and invite her to the special Mass.

thanks for all your support, everyone! I had a feeling On Balance people were generally decent somewhere underneath--it's a shame this blog is so often filled with other things!

Posted by: newslinks1 | November 29, 2007 1:35 PM

newslink: I am soo sorry for your loss. I don't have any words of wisdom except people's memories of others is short. They don't mean to be insensitive but it is hard for them to keep the tragedy alive because it is not happening to them. My daughter's classmate died this year and as I watch her parents go through the many stages of grief, I have some idea of what you might be feeling. I find just being a sounding board helps for them. As I am pregnant with my second child now, I will try to remember every day what a blessing this baby is and keep in mind all the babies that were taken way to early. Hugs and sympathy being sent your way.

Posted by: foamgnome | November 29, 2007 1:43 PM

newslinks -- there's always a history with the stuff that PO's us the most, isn't there? If she's the perpetual drama queen, I can see why you'd be angry that she couldn't be there for you Just This Once.

Irony: I had the opposite problem with my SIL -- she kept pushing me to talk about it, with all sorts of helpful homilies ("you'll feel much better if you talk about it," etc.). I appreciated the desire to help, but she just couldn't understand that for weeks I quite literally Did Not Have Words -- I'm different from her, and I needed time in my own head to translate the overwhelming rage I was feeling into words before I could even begin to share those words with someone. I mean, I didn't even KNOW I was mad for at least 2 weeks -- how am I supposed to talk it through when I don't even know what "it" is?

Maybe we should trade SILs -- I'd have been happy just to be left alone for a while, and it sounds like you'd have appreciated the attempt to connect. :-)

Posted by: laura33 | November 29, 2007 2:14 PM

On topic (or pretty close): I have been interviewing intern candidates. I chose a mother over traditional college-age students because her level of maturity and work experience meant that she would require less direct supervision. I also considered that well-connected kids have doors opened for them all the time, whereas working mothers routinely have doors of opportunity politely shut.

Newslinks: my condolences. Folks on here are correct--unless someone else has experienced this pain, they really cannot relate. I've recently had my own emotional hit: both of my parents just died, less than a week apart. I went to N.C. to bury my father the day before Thanksgiving, and my brother had my mother cremated in Florida the day after Thanksgiving. I'm still emotionally drained, back home and trying to maintain a sense of normality while I tend to the day-to-day activities of being a single mother. I feel so desperately alone as I have no family within 2,500 miles. I'm trying to throw myself into preparing a nice but quiet Christmas holiday for my daughter, but even that's tough...

Posted by: pepperjade | November 29, 2007 2:33 PM

We still mourn every July 21, the anniversary of the first Moon landing, and of the day we lost a baby at three months' pregnancy. "You can always have another one" is no consolation, because everyone is unique and irreplaceable.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | November 29, 2007 2:37 PM


Wow. I am sorry for your compounded recent losses. It must be very, very difficult for you with the faux-joy of the holidays all around you at every turn. Please take care of yourself during this tough time.

Posted by: mn.188 | November 29, 2007 2:40 PM

A short time After moving my family to a new neighborhood, my wife got pregnant with our 4th child. One of the neighborhood mothers of a single child actually told us after she found out, "Nobody in this neighborhood will think that's good news.", then she sped off in her car. The statement confused me, but it made my wife livid.

A few weeks after, my wife sensed something was seriously wrong and went to the doctor's office to have it checked out. I got the phone call at work. It sounded like a hangup call at first, just emptyness, but I knew what had happened just by listening to the silence. Then I heard the crying, and trying to hold back the tears of pain, my wife finally bursted out, "Our baby didn't make it!". It was the saddest thing I've ever heard in my life.

The sad news got back to our neighbor. She cooked our family dinner and brought it to us when my wife was recovering from the DNC. That is when we learned that she had lost twins and hadn't been able to conceive since.

First there is grief, then anger, then forgiveness, and finally empathy.

I think very few people realize the purpose of suffering, or that it may have any value at all. But those of us who get burdened by emotional pain and then work through it have the opportunity to use their experience to become more caring, loving people.

Posted by: DandyLion | November 29, 2007 2:58 PM

I am so sorry for your losses. It must be so very hard to lose both parents in such a short time. I hope your holidays are healing and restful, and that you pull through this with the same grace and strength that seems to accompany you generally. My thoughts are with you.

Posted by: Emily | November 29, 2007 3:03 PM

pepper jade: Sorry for your loss. I hope you can rest during this season and just concentrate on yourself and your daughter.

Emily: When is your baby due?

Posted by: foamgnome | November 29, 2007 3:08 PM

oh, pepperjade, how awful! I'm so sorry for your losses.

If it helps, some churches offer special services for those grieving at the holidays. There's more info about this here:

I spoke to our head priest, Father Gould, about it, and he's scheduled a special Mass at our Catholic church in Lorton for people who are grieving at 7pm on Dec 21st.

Dunno where you are, but if you're nearby, please come if you think it might help.
hugs to you at this awful time.

Posted by: newslinks1 | November 29, 2007 3:10 PM

Newslinks, Emily, MN, Foamgnome: thank you for the kind thoughts. I'm still a bit stunned, but I realize that it takes time to work through the grief. Newslinks, I live in Arizona, so I cannot attend services in Lorton, but I really appreciate the thought. That is wonderful that your clergy are there for you and your fellow parishioners. Faith is definitely important during the grieving and healing process.

Posted by: pepperjade | November 29, 2007 3:24 PM

Am I the ONLY person who thinks Rebeldad was doing an advertisement for this college program... and trying to disguise it as a column?????

Posted by: bonnieoconnor | November 29, 2007 3:39 PM

newslink1 and pepperjade: I am sorry for your losses. I pray that you'll find peace.

Posted by: kate07 | November 29, 2007 3:49 PM

Sorry to be arriving so late today.

Newslinks, I haven't experienced what you have, so can't pretend to know your pain. But I'm so sorry for your loss. I second Fred re The Compassionate Friends, who have been helpful to friends who've suffered the death of a child.

Pepperjade, both of my parents are dead so I grieve with you -- although mine didn't die close together in time, a convergence which must add immeasurably to your shock. My sympathies to you, your daughter and the rest of your family.

I've found that the first year following a loved one's death is the hardest -- as Shandra wrote, one can only manage grief, not erase it. It's perfectly reasonable to cut yourself enough slack to get through the holidays, with its sometimes forced fake cheeriness (cruelly ironic when one least feels like it). Don't be afraid to give yourself permission to drop old traditions if they seem oppressive to you, and to create new ones that you think might suit your feelings better this year (and which you even might decide to repeat next year, if you find you prefer them!).

Finally, I've been so moved reading the comments of our regulars -- all at their absolute best today. Even to folks with whom I sometimes disagree, I can only say that I'm in awe of the kindness and compassion you've shown.

Virtual flan for everyone, on the house this afternoon at chez mehitabel!

Posted by: mehitabel | November 29, 2007 3:59 PM

newslinks- While my friend's breakup may not have been as deserving as sympathy, it did give me the strength not to shout in her face what a whiny little (baby) she was being and to count her (fricking) blessings. It sounds as if you have a drama queen on your hands, and they tend to be inherantly narcissistic and selfish. Any attempt to explain it to her may end with eye rolls and accusations that -you're- being dramatic, so be prepared.

pepperjade- I'm so sorry that you're dealing with the deaths of both your parents. My condolences.

Posted by: atb2 | November 29, 2007 4:04 PM

Hi pepperjade, more kind thoughts from my direction. I found losing my Mom very disorienting; I can't imagine losing both my parents especially during the holidays. As has already been said, be kind to yourself. I know it's hard as a single Mom. Virtual hugs from me -- wish they could be real ones.

Posted by: anne.saunders | November 29, 2007 4:07 PM

pepperjade: Wow; you have my sincere condolences on your loss. That's got to be very tough. My father died over 20 years ago (of a heart attack at the age of 51) and I still think about him often, many times in the context of trying to figure out what HE would have done or said to my kids in some situation. I still miss him; guess I always will. But Mom is still alive and kicking, so that's one blessing I think I'll go count again, just in case I missed it last time.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | November 29, 2007 4:10 PM

pepperjade - my condolences. My thoughts are with you and your family.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | November 29, 2007 4:19 PM

I sympathize, having gone through the exact same thing. I think one of the things that has surprised me most in recent years is how common this is.
All of my close friends have been through this, it's simply part of the risk of pregnancy.
I think it'd help prepare us if people understood that if you have 2 kids your odds are close to 50/50 (obviously dependant on age).
And some people who haven't been through this under appreciate how painful it can be. It helped me that I was pregnant again within a couple of months, and didn't have to deal with it being a molar m/c.
Take time. And cry - but don't expect people to treat this with the gravity you do. It's simply not in most peoples nature to remember something like this that happened 8 months ago. But at the same time, dismissal of pain is not an intention to hurt you.
Chalk it up to your SIL being human.

Posted by: albagirl | November 29, 2007 5:19 PM

My sincere condolences on your so recent losses. I lost my dad two years ago and still think "gee, I should ask dad about that". He is always in my mind.
My mom is now in a nursing home in another state. I can talk to her every day but it isn't the same. We didn't get along for most of my life - she left the family when I was 16. There was a lot of bitterness but once she got sick it all kind of faded away.
My sis and bro are still bitter and I fear her eventual demise will hit them harder for their lack of forgiveness. To each his own time I guess.

Posted by: KLB_SS_MD | November 29, 2007 5:37 PM

newslinks, Pepperjade; I think you brought tears to the eyes and cheeks of all of us who read this blog today as we remember the suffering we experienced from a miscarriage or the loss of a loved one. You may not realize it, but by sharing your sorrow, you've helped hundreds, possibly thousands of people work through their own grief as the holiday season is upon us. What else can I say but thanks!

Posted by: DandyLion | November 29, 2007 6:56 PM

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