Courtesy of HuffPost | By Ann Brenoff | Originally Posted 11.15.2017 | Published 11.20.2017
Bereavement leave needs to be more than three days off.
Lori McCoy was a supervisor overseeing 911 dispatchers in San Mateo County, California, back in 1991 when she got the diagnosis that her 6-week-old son Joshua had spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive neurodegenerative disease similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.
“I was told that most boys with SMA as severe as Josh’s rarely lived to be a year old,” McCoy recalled to HuffPost. The doctors prepared her, advising: “Enjoy the time you have with him and keep him in your arms.”
Devastated, the single mom processed the insanity of those words. How do you possibly enjoy the time remaining with your son when you need to go to work every day to support you both? She worried she would wind up homeless, caring for her infant and living in her car. Or burdening her mother, who had a heart condition, by moving in with her.
McCoy had a good support network socially, but much less so financially. “I was a single parent and made enough to support myself ― and now my child ― but there was no way I could do so without an income.”
Her county benefits package provided three days to five days of bereavement leave, and no paid time off for caregiving. Fortunately, she worked for an innovative place. Because of San Mateo County’s catastrophic care program ― and the benevolence of her coworkers ― she was able to focus on her son and be with him every day of his six-month life, and then grieve his loss for about seven weeks after he died. The care program allows employees to anonymously donate unused sick time or vacation credits to a coworker in need.
“The kindness that was demonstrated to me by my coworkers is among my most cherished memories,” McCoy said. “I felt cared for in a way that was impossible for me to care for myself. They gave me the most valuable gift of all, the gift of time with my son.”