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Should You (and Can You) Take Time Off Work After a Breakup?

Your heart may be hurting but you still have bills to pay.

Most breakups leave us brokenhearted, some so much so that we may find it hard to function normally. Divorces and splits can cause stress, weight loss, tears, and sometimes, people can’t even get out of bed.

For some, work is a much needed escape. Burying yourself in your day-to-day tasks and staying busy helps us get through the worst part of a breakup, and getting to work means getting them off your mind. Plus, you do need the paycheck right? No one wants to lose their relationship and their apartment. Then you’re just brokenhearted and homeless. But, for others, their lost love is all they can think about.

Is there a balance you can find right after a breakup, where maybe you can take a few days off to heal and rest then get back to work? Or is the idea of time off after a breakup just ridiculous?

Depends who you ask.

Ask a Manager creator and workplace columnist Alison Green tells us while you “can’t generally take bereavement leave for the break-up of a relationship, no matter how much like grieving it is, you should be able to take regular vacation or sick leave.” You don’t necessarily have to tell your boss what it’s for.

Forbes tackled the topic of sick leave after a breakup, saying, “while it is generally acceptable in the workplace to take time off due to health reasons, child care issues, or the well-being of a parent, there is often scant corporate understanding when it comes to work disruption as a result of divorce, breakup or even general relationship turmoil.”

Should this kind of time off be more widely available and acceptable?

“Mental health experts seem divided over the issue,” they report. “Irina Firstein, a New York City therapist with 20 years' experience, says that relationship trouble should not be given the same leeway in the workplace as health issues. These events, while very traumatic, don't require a long time off work. In fact, I think it is most helpful to try and continue your usual activities. This takes away some of the focus and energy on obsessively dwelling on one's pain.”

But Sally Wright, Ph.D., a consultant for clients like the American Psychotherapy Association, says, “Situations involving relationship breakup are every bit as mentally and emotionally taxing as those which are characterized as 'acceptable' reasons. In fact they are often more difficult to deal with.”

Therapists and relationship experts do put divorce on par with death in terms of emotional devastation. Doesn’t that get you a few mental health days at least?

The Family Medical Leave Act covers certain employees whose parents or children are ill, but breakups are not considered that dire.

Tell that to someone who's just been dumped

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