The world watched Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg deal with her own grief process when she lost her husband in May 2015. Like anyone who loses a loved one, she needed time to be with her family and go through the healing process. It’s a human need that more companies are finally starting to understand doesn’t just fix itself overnight. And, Facebook is a company that is setting a precedent with its new bereavement policy just as Netflix did with its parental leave policy.

A Heart for Workers

Yes, it turns out that organizations really do have a heart when it comes to their people – a revolutionary change from the organizations of old that did not want to acknowledge that their workers had lives outside of their jobs. The social consciousness now driving many organizational cultures recognizes that being family-friendly and acknowledging greater balance benefits the person and the company in the long run. Employees can focus and feel more motivated to work when they feel cared about and provided with the time to take care of matters that come up.

Because the reality is that life happens, so companies like Facebook are telling their workers that they understand. The new bereavement policy allows up to 20 days off due to the loss of an immediate family member or 10 days for an extended family member. Additionally, paid family leave has been expanded to six weeks so that employees can take care of a severely ill family member or up to three days for a family member that has a short-term illness like the flu. Facebook already provides unlimited sick time for its workers, so these benefits are intended to support their staff’s need to be available to their families.

Emotional and Financial Support

While laws tied to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 have stated qualifying Americans who work full-time for a company longer than a year should receive 12 weeks of reasonable leave for certain family conditions like an illness or new child, there was nothing that stated it had to be paid. However, more organizations were realizing the benefits of doing this but loosening up those restrictions and providing financial assistance for this time off to alleviate more of the stress associated with these situations.

As Sandberg noted, these are unexpected instances that arise that put pressure on workers to choose between their jobs and families. Her company is setting a new precedent by saying that workers won’t have to deal with an either/or scenario when they have a loss, illness, or a new family member. She hopes that more companies follow Facebook’s lead to raise the bar on the lack of federal support for families and individuals facing tough situations.

What Employees Can Do

Is your organization as forward-thinking as Facebook? While you may not need this type of leave right now, there may come a point in time where you are grieving and require this personal time. Take action now so you don’t have to worry about it when and if the time comes. Here is a quick checklist:

  • If you are unsure what your company’s leave policy is, ask them.
  • Find out if it is paid or unpaid.  If it’s unpaid, it’s a good idea to focus on continuing to add to your own personal emergency fund.  
  • If your company does not have a formal bereavement policy in place, consider advocating for one by going through the proper channels. You can also make the rest of your team aware of the value of asking for this time as a benefit.
  • Make sure your company is aware of Facebook’s innovative new policy and share the information about the policy with them so your company can consider adding it as a best practice.

Support That Pays Organizations Back

After the support she received, Sandberg wants to pay it forward and is asking all companies to do the same by supporting American families everywhere. She knows that the talented individuals that appreciate this level of emotional and financial support will give back by working just as hard – if not harder – because they realize their employers have their back.

As company leaders, let’s take that statistic that only 60% of U.S. workers in the private sector receive paid leave when a loved one dies and turn it into 100%. And, even though these benefits are becoming more readily available, studies still show that employees can be reluctant to take advantage of them because they are afraid others will view them as committed or valuable to the organization. That’s why we also have work to do as leaders to create a culture that changes this perspective and encourages people to put their families first when the situation calls for it. Just imagine what our economy and country can become when we work together through the good and bad times.


God Bless,

Dr. Gloria


Gloria Horsley

Dr. Gloria Horsley is an internationally known grief expert, psychotherapist, and bereaved parent. She started "Open to Hope" to help the millions in the world with grief. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Clinical Nurse Specialist, and has worked in the field of family therapy for over 20 years. Dr. Horsley hosts the syndicated internet radio show, The Grief Blog which is one of the top ranked shows on Health Voice America. She serves the Compassionate Friends in a number of roles including as a Board of Directors, chapter leader, workshop facilitator, and frequently serves as media spokesperson. Dr. Horsley is often called on to present seminars throughout the country. She has made appearances on numerous television and radio programs including "The Today Show," "Montel Williams," and "Sallie Jessie Raphael." In addition, she has authored a number of articles and written several books including Teen Grief Relief with Dr. Heidi Horlsey, and The In-Law Survival Guide.

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