Grief and Bereavement Policy Center

Evermore provides research, information and policy analysis to professionals and policymakers on critical issues to advance bereavement care in America.

Organization Sign-on Letter to President Biden


President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20500


April 19, 2021


Dear Mr. President, 

Thank you for your service and leadership to our country.


On behalf of bereaved families throughout America, we request you safeguard American families by including bereavement leave as part of your agenda to expand family leave benefits and protections. 


As the nation confronts concurrent mortality tragedies, employment protection for the newly bereaved has never been more important. Bereavement leave is job protection and millions of Americans who have lost a loved one have no legal right to take leave, with narrow exceptions in two states and two localities. Currently, bereavement is not acceptable grounds for taking unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, except for miscarriage or stillbirth losses or when a solider is killed in action. This chasm not only leaves millions of Americans at risk for losing their job, but also can be a precipitating event that can send an individual or family into poverty, homelessness and other dire outcomes that can alter a person’s life trajectory permanently. 


Job protections for the newly bereaved may include the following:  

  1. Leave: Ten days of unpaid leave following the death of a family member or loved one.
  2. Age of a child: Define the age of a child up to age 26 bringing age parity with existing health care and tax law.
  3. Definition of a family member or loved one: While there is no one standard, proposed or passed state laws define a family member or loved one as: (1) Spouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others: or (2) Any other family member within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity: or (3) A member of the covered employee’s household, including a minor’s parents, regardless of the sex or gender of either parent. Most laws liberally define parenthood as legal parents, foster parents, same-sex parent, stepparents, those serving in loco parentis, and other persons operating in caretaker roles.


Make no mistake employment protection is not simply about planning a funeral or grieving. Maintaining family stability and solvency in the short- and long-term can be a challenge, especially when families face housing, food and other insecurities. Further, Jewish and Native American traditions, for example, have cultural and religious requirements or norms that must be carried out within specific timeframes. The threat of losing your job under these conditions is unacceptable.


The unexpected death of a loved one is the most common traumatic experience Americans report; many report their loss as their worst life experience. Today, more than 5 million families have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 in the United States, including an estimated 40,000 newly bereaved children who have lost a parent. Millions more are bereaved from deaths due to overdoses, suicide, mass murder events, homicide, transportation fatalities and other tragedies that never make our nation’s headlines. The impact of bereavement on American lives is both stunning and underappreciated. Consider the following:


  • Bereaved children are at-risk of school failures, juvenile justice incarceration, drug abuse, violent crime involvement, suicide attempts, suicide, and premature death.
  • Bereaved siblings are at-risk of dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, and premature death.
  • Bereaved parents are at heightened risk for depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, less purpose in life, more health complications, marital disruption, psychiatric hospitalization, cancer incidence, dementia, and premature death.
  • Bereaved spouses at risk of depression, post-traumatic stress, prolonged grief and premature death.


Racial inequalities are magnified across the life course as Black Americans are more likely to experience the death of children, spouses, siblings and parents when compared to white Americans. They are three times as likely as white Americans to have two or more family members die by the time they reach the age of 30.


Bereavement leave is not an academic exercise. Real families are behind these statistics. 


Today, families are left to fend for themselves and without any legal protections. Losing a loved one is more than an emotional hardship, it is an urgent threat to their family wellbeing and economic resiliency. If bereavement leave is not considered now, it will be years before Congress will reconsider codifying employment protections into law.


As the nation’s highest office, we ask that you provide job protection to America’s newly bereaved families. No other time in history has this been more urgent. The cost of inaction is incalculable. 


We look forward to working with you and your administration.


1st Breath

2 Degrees Foundation

A Sacred Passing Death Midwifery and Community Education

Adam’s House

Advocates for Victims of Impaired/Distracted Driving

Alana Rose Foundation

Alive Alone, Inc.

Alive Hospice


American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work

Angel Eyes

AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety

Ashlie’s Embrace

Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare

Austin Center for Grief & Loss

Banister Advisors, LLC

Bereaved Parents of Madison, Inc. Madison, WI

Better Not Bitter Mom LLC

Camp HOPE Inc.

Casey Feldman Foundation

Center for Alternatives in Community Justice

Center for Complicated Grief

Child HELP Partnership

Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico

Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas

Clinical Social Work Association

Coalition of Concerned Mothers

Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies

Conor Lynch Foundation

COPE, New York

Counseling Program, Marshall University

COVID Survivors for Change

Dane County, County Executive, Joe Parisi

Empowered NICU Parenting

Erin’s House for Grieving Children

Evans Team


Evolving My Path

Families for Safe Streets

Farley-Kluger Initiative

Feldman Mortuary

Florida SADD

Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalition

Forneret Co.

Friends of Aine


Give InKind

Glioblastoma Support Network

Gold Star Parents Retreat

Grief Coach

Grief Resource Center

Hang Up And Drive

Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies – The Montana Coalition

Hope and Healing of Pinellas

HOPE Connection, Los Angeles

Hospice Foundation of America

Infant Death Center of Wisconsin

Inner Harbor

Institute for Safer Trucking

Journey Through Bereavement

Judi’s House

Lantern, PBC

Louis D. Brown Peace Institute

Marked By COVID

Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance

Mayor, City of Madison, Satya Rhodes-Conway


Modern Loss

Mothers’ Milk Alliance, Inc. Madison, WI

Myers Compassionate Grief Services

Na Keiki O Emalia (Emalia’s Children)

National Alliance of Grieving Children

National Association for Rural Mental Health

National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors

New Hope for Kids

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Parent Support of Puget Sound

Portland Institute for Loss and Transition

Public Health Madison & Dane County, Wisconsin

Refuge in Grief

Safe Crossings Foundation

Southern California Families for Safe Streets

Star Legacy Foundation

Stop 4 Aidan

Street Racing Kills

String of Pearls

Structureworks Fabrication

SUDC Foundation

Sudden Infant Death Services of Illinois, Inc.

TEARS Foundation

The Catch You Later Foundation

The Children’s Room

The Cove Center for Grieving Children

The Dougy Center

The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado

The Kentucky Center for Grieving Children and Families, Inc.

The Sun Will Rise Foundation, Inc.

The Tristesse Grief Center

The Wendt Center for Loss & Healing

Tides, Inc.

Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)

Uplift Center for Grieving Children

Valerie’s House

Virginia Mason Grief Services

Walking Each Other Home Madison, WI

We Save Lives

Willow Center

Employers Should Have Clear, Written Bereavement Leave Benefit Policies
(July 2020)

The unexpected death of a loved one is the most common traumatic experience Americans report, many report their loss as their worst life experience. Employees who need time off from work to grieve and cope with the death of a loved one have no legal right to take leave, with narrow exceptions in two states and two localities. Bereavement is not acceptable grounds for taking unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, despite recent efforts to add bereavement to this law. While many employers offer bereavement leave, it is often only a few days, which is insufficient time for most employees to return to work and productivity after the death of a family member.

As our nation faces the coronavirus pandemic, drug overdoses, suicide and mass gun violence events, employers are forced to acknowledge bereavement and its implications for families, while staying solvent and productive. It is a difficult balance for employers to strike. To address these needs and set national standards, Evermore recommends employers institute a bereavement leave benefit (note: not to be confused with sick leave):

Read more…

Employers Bereavement Guidelines

  1. Employers with five or more employees should have clear, written bereavement leave benefit policies in employee handbooks or outlined in similar guidance.
  2. Small employers (fewer than 50 employees) should offer five days of unpaid leave to bereaved employees following the death of a close family member; thereby, permitting individuals to return to work at the conclusion of the five-day unpaid, leave period.
  3. Mid-sized employers (between 50 and 499 employees) should offer five days of paid leave following the death of a close family member and employees should have the option of two additional weeks of unpaid bereavement leave; thereby, permitting individuals to return to work at the conclusion of the 15-day leave period.
  4. Large employers (more than 500 employees) should offer ten days of paid leave following the death of a close family member and employees should have the option of two additional weeks of unpaid bereavement leave; thereby, permitting individuals to return to work at the conclusion of the 20-day leave period.

Read more…

Help Bereaved Mothers and Babies Receive Bereavement Care
(June 2020)

Want to help bereaved mothers and children, here’s what you can do:

The Maternal and Child Health Bureau Title V block grant is one of our nation’s most significant investments in health and wellbeing. The $6.5 billion program reaches every state and jurisdiction in the nation touching an estimated 55 million people, including pregnant women, infants, children and children with disabilities. Nearly every infant and mother benefits from the program, while more than half of all American children are helped. Want to help bereaved mothers and children, here’s what you can do:

Read more…


Evermore Submits Letter to American Psychiatric Association Supporting Amendments to Prolonged Grief Disorder for Children and Adolescents
(May 2020)

The unexpected or untimely death of a loved one is the most common traumatic life event touching Americans; many of them ranking it the worst event of their lives. Today, an estimated ten million children have experienced these uniquely devastating losses. Grief itself is an individual and iterative process. It is an exogenous shock that irrevocably alters lifelong health development pathways alongside other social and economic aspects of our lives. While the decision to pathologize grief is one of the most controversial and polarizing topics among leading bereavement professionals, we know that the planning, delivery, and reimbursement of appropriate treatment and care requires the identification and diagnosis of real conditions. When it comes to bereavement, many of today’s debates overlook one essential and often invisible demographic: minority and impoverished children.

Death and bereavement disproportionately impact communities of color, thereby widening and exacerbating the health and health care disparities that marginalize our nation’s most vulnerable children. Given the limited resource allocations devoted to these communities, Evermore:

(1) Strongly endorses the prolonged grief disorder (PGD) amendments proposed by Drs. Christopher Layne, Benjamin Oosterhoff, Robert Pynoos and Julie Kaplow for children and adolescents,

(2) Strongly encourages the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to adopt the proposed modification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5-TR, and

(3) Strongly encourages APA to prioritize bereavement education among our nation’s mental health workforce, especially those working with children, youth, and families.

Read more…


Evermore Outside Witness Testimony for the Record to U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
(May 2020)

Bereavement care is an essential element to any comprehensive public health strategy. Our families require more support, practitioners require more tools and resources, and we must understand more about bereavement. Research not only saves lives, but drives innovation.

Rigorous population-level studies, examining the health behaviors and outcomes of millions of people, have concluded that bereaved parents, siblings,  children and spouses are all at risk of premature death as a result of such loss. This is just the tip of the iceberg: bereavement is an underlying driver of the poor health undermining our nation’s health care and social services systems.

Consider the following: Today, ten million American children are bereaved, with two million having lost a parent and a projected eight million having lost a sibling. These uniquely devastating losses alter the lifetime success of these youth. Nearly 90 percent of detained youth have experienced the death of a close loved one and 25 percent subsequently joined a gang. Research studies have found that “bereaved children experience lower self-esteem, reduced resilience, lower grades and more school failures, heightened risk of depression, suicide attempts, suicide, and premature death due to any cause, drug abuse, violent crime involvement, youth delinquency, and a greater number of, and more severe, psychiatric difficulties.”

If this does not cause alarm and encourage leadership, what will?

Read more…


Congress Should Amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to Make Child Death a Qualifying Reason for Leave and Job Protection
(January 2020)

To date, an estimated 20 million Americans have experienced the death of a child. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Studies continue to provide evidence that the greatest stress, and often the most enduring one, occurs for parents who experience the death of a child.” This stress produces untold health, social and economic impacts.

Unfortunately, few supports exist to help grieving parents remain solvent and productive. In most cities and states, employees have no legal protections if they need to take leave following the death of a child. The exact number of employers that offer bereavement leave is not known; in most cases, however, only three days of paid leave are allowed.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act is an appropriate public policy tool to afford some protections to families experiencing the loss of a child. Passage of the Parental Bereavement Act (H.R. 983/S. 559) is advocated to make the death of a son or daughter a qualifying reason for leave under FMLA. The legislation will likely be reintroduced in 2020.

Read more…