Last week we said goodbye to our 9 year old dog – Oreo. My husband and I had got him before we were married and he truly was our first baby. Dog people will get this, the rest of you may have to bear with me. The grief has been devastating. Knowing we would be a mess, we booked the appointment on a Friday night so my husband didn’t have to go to work the next day. As a consultant, I was able to manage my schedule. However, the first day my husband and kids left the house after the appointment – I felt this overwhelming sense of emptiness. We have been in this house for 7 years and this is the first time I have truly been alone. Between missing our beloved pet and our 4 year old asking when we can get a new puppy, the last few days have been emotional to say the least.
Truth be told, I do not have a lot of experience with death. I have said goodbye to both sets of grandparents, but that would be expected for most people my age. I have watched my husband grieve the passing of both his parents, but both were elderly and not unexpected passings. This pain, this grief – even for him – is comparable. Our dog was part of our family. He was part of our lives – every. single. day.
As an HR Consultant, I have written bereavement policies for several organizations. Not once have I ever recommended pets be included in these policies. In many companies, I would likely be laughed right out of the boardroom. However, who are we, as a company, to dictate who and how people grieve.
Even for human bereavement, most companies will give you a specific number of days like 3 days for a grandparent, 5 days for a spouse or child. Five days to grieve the death of your child – can you imagine? Will a person always need three days to grieve the loss of their grandparent?
Everyone is different and most people will simply take what is outlined in the policy, regardless if it’s too much or too little. What if we allow people to take the time they need. Trust your employees to come back when they are ready. Let it be their choice and let them choose which loss is the most difficult. Maybe it’s their best friend or maybe it’s their dog. Who are we to determine who and how long our employees should grieve?
Sarah Mullins is the founder of uptreeHR, a Halifax based human resource consulting firm that is passionate about helping business owners manage their people, set clear expectations and increase performance. We truly believe you can treat your employees well, create an amazing culture and not break the bank.
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