This was the message that hit my inbox:
“My employer wants to fire me because my child has cancer.”
How does one even respond to something like that? I’ve never endured this sort of hardship and it left me somewhat speechless.
The ironic part of the situation was that my former colleague was working for a well-known company in the medical industry, and her employer had many social media posts promoting the phenomenal work-life balance they offered and access to health services for employees.
It’s amazing how an advertisement from a company often has no correlation to reality. If anyone deserved some support, it was my former colleague.
After all, when I lost my job, she was the first one to recommend me to a potential employer and give me a glowing reference. Now her child had cancer and she was taken back by the whole situation. Could I not offer some hope or inspiration in return?
What struck me about this situation is this:
We are all one tragedy away from living through the worst time of our life.
That’s why we need to be empathetic to as many people as we can. One day it could be us.
To my former colleague,
I can not even imagine what you are going through. Tragedy comes from nowhere and already, it’s obvious that you are incredibly brave. While I have never lived through a tragedy like this, I thought it might be helpful to share some thoughts.
Maybe they just don’t know
No leader or company is pure evil. You’re going through a hard time with your daughter and there is a chance that they just don’t understand. It’s possible that they believe your family will support you and therefore, a situation like this shouldn’t prevent you from doing your work.
It could just be that they are ignorant. This is an inconvenient truth, although we can’t dish out the same lack of empathy that you have received thus far as a justification for taking actions that later will be regrettable.
Time off could be helpful
This situation is probably going to be the toughest thing you ever face. Seeing your child in the hospital bed must be so difficult.
Even with all your strength, courage, bravery and resilience, I’m not sure it’s even possible to be fully present at work no matter how hard you try. Perhaps time off could be helpful if your financial situation permits.
Quitting could be the only way
If there is no way to take time off and you’ve used all your leave, perhaps the only way is to quit your current job.
Quitting a job seems like a last resort and the idea of career gaps, finding a new job, and facing endless rejections while dealing with the thought of being unemployed could be a challenging concept to accept.
I experienced having to leave a career behind earlier this year and while it was incredibly hard, many of these nightmare outcomes didn’t play out. What became clear was this:
Your career doesn’t burn to the ground and never get rebuilt again. Everything that ends, begins again in a new form. (Often a better form.)
It’s okay to ask for help
The fact that you have reached out shows that you’re not afraid to ask for help. It’s okay to repeat the process.
Ask family members, colleagues, friends and your inner-circle for support. With the support of others, you can get through anything. By yourself, it’s potentially going to be that much harder.
Your mindset will spread
If you can show up in front of your daughter with a positive mindset, she will mimic your attitude and this could be a secret weapon against the cancer that threatens her life.
Having an internal belief system that supports her recovery and the many different treatments involved will give her the best chance.
Never let family become second
Your family is far too important. No career or company is worth putting above that. We don’t intentionally make this decision; we often do it out of fear.
It’s completely fine to be fearful; just don’t let it get in the way of what your heart tells you to do.
Things will get better
This is a mantra that you might find helpful.
Whenever the negative thoughts become too much, tell yourself, “things will get better.” You didn’t choose this situation. There will be a point where this period of your life will have finished and a new season will arrive.
If your daughter is anything like her mother, then what I know for sure is that she’s a fighter. Everyone around you is there for you, even though we may not fully comprehend the situation.
Things will get better and life will find a way to pass the time.
Your former colleague Tim
Right now, all I can do is hope that my former colleague doesn’t give up hope. The next few months are going to be incredibly tough for her — especially if she is unemployed.
Seeing ourselves in a situation such as this brings us closer to our mortality and to humanity. It may not be our child or our career that is under attack — but imagining that it could be is a thought worth contemplating.
What would you do? How would you hope people support you.
We are humans that are guaranteed to struggle, and that can be a crippling thought, or an idea that brings us all together. Choose the latter.