How long should I stay off work?

I’ve had the managers at work asking me am I taking a sabbatical after my husband’s death 6 weeks ago. I am distraught not only at his death which was at home, and how sick he was, but also being on my own with little support and being expected to provide sheets and pillows and care items for the hospital bed that was supplied. I intend to take sick leave as at the moment I am haunted by recurring images of his death. I feel guilty doing this, and I did take a lot of unpaid time off whilst he was ill, but now I feel ill myself.

You must be exhausted and grieving. Don’t feel guilty after what you have been through in not surprised you feel ill.
You may or may not find counselling helpful , just talking through everything that’s happened can help a lot.
Take care of yourself and try to explain to your managers how you feel. Until this has happened to you it’s so hard to understand how awful it is. Take care Jx

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Hello Nevermore,

I am sorry to read about the hard time you are having at the moment and agree you are doing the right thing by being signed off as sick leave at the moment. 6 weeks is not long at all, you are likely still in shock from everything that has happened.

I am sorry you did not get much support when your husband was so ill especially when you were on your own at home. It is very difficult caring for someone at home and watching them deteriorate and finally pass away. You are very brave to have done so and must be exhausted. You really are the most important person now, your health and well being. Your doctor I am sure will agree.

You must do everything you can to recuperate. Anything small that helps, as mentioned walks gentle or otherwise are good and a bit of fresh air. Are you sleeping? I suspect not. If you are signed off work you can take cat naps as and when you need them and not worry about having to get up for work. Eat anything that is easy to prepare and comforting. Scrambled eggs, baked potatoes, something like that.

I truly am sorry you are having flashbacks. They really are awful and very upsetting. They do seem to get less frequent I have found. It is not the way you want to remember your husband. Think of him when he was healthy and happy, a happy memory can help.

My situation is different from yours as it is my Mum I have lost, nearly two years ago. She asked to come home when she was terminally ill and like you had the hospital bed and carers. The latter very variable in what they termed as being caring. The doctors and nurses who visited were great however and we had the support of a local hospice as well. I watched her slip away from me gradually over six weeks and was with her until the very last. I went into shock for months afterwards, had flashbacks, tsunamis of tears in public. It does get easier to bear, I still have days when I am not so good but I get by. It is, as a friend said to me, an existance at first.

You take care of yourself and on’t feel guilty. Your needs are more important than your employers at the moment.



Hi Nevermore,
Shame on your managers for being so insensitive. I lost my wife and soul mate of 45 years after 5 short weeks from diagnosis and I couldn’t go to work. My managers advised me I could use unused holiday ( after so many weeks) then told me to get my doctor to sign me off (No problem whatsoever) and then told me via HR that if I had an interview via 'phone with Occupational Health they could reinstate my full pay (and back pay it) depending on the outcome. They agreed with my doctor I had ‘reactionary depression’ which I suspect you are suffering from. I had to give up the telephone interviews because they were too upsetting and I gave up work and took early retirement. I was more likely to shove someones head through their computor monitor rather than resolve their issues.
Check all your paper work. It’s hard - its like going through your history together and see if you have any pensions or mortgages/life assurance policies that will pay out on a partners death. You can take 25% tax free from a private pension.
I always wanted to retire early but my wife always said we couldn’t afford it. Turns out we could have but she’s no longer here to share it.
Its 10 months now since I lost her. I still have tears (like now) and miss her every day but I’m coping.
Look after yourself, everybody is different. Sometimes you’ll feel OK and sometimes your world just comes crashing down. Take each day / hour as it comes and don’t worry about anybody else.

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Thank you for your posts. I cannot stand the thought of talking to someone from the hospice, as they are tick boxing and apparently I win the star prize of one to one counselling, as if that will help now. They let me down at the time. I’ve read a lot of posts on this site, and it’s the sharing of an experience by genuine people I’ve found immensely helpful. I intend to take sick leave for as long as I need, which may well be six months or more. I’ve been through 2 years of cancer. It didn’t just eat away my husband, it ate away our relationship, and then it dragged him to a horrible death. Now I find a dear friend who came to his funeral and has supported me through these last weeks has this day been diagnosed with cancer. I expect he will last a couple of years of chemo and operations and radiotherapy, with the oncologists never really telling you how bad it is, or what to expect. Let’s just keep them going, try this, try that, you never know, it might work. My friend and his wife are at the start of the journey into hell, and I grieve even more.

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