Advocating for the Communities We Serve

By Michelle L. Cramer
Founder and Executive Director of On Angels’ Wings

It’s hard to believe, but On Angels’ Wings is nearly 11 years old now. When I founded the organization in 2013, I never fathomed the reach that it would have over a decade later, with more than 1500 families served through over 1800 photo sessions and our ongoing support services.

I’ve personally been doing bereavement work for 16 years, and I’ve been certified in grief recovery for four years. I’ve observed so much heartbreak during that time, and a good portion of it coming from how poorly our society cares for the grieving. I started advocating for change with the publishing of my book Unshattered Grief in 2022, but knew that wasn’t the end. Soon after I began to realize that education needed to happen in the workplace. We spent 40% of our adult life at work; if it’s not a safe place to face traumatic loss, then employee retention will continue to spiral. In a post-pandemic world, people are much more attune to finding jobs that don’t impede their happiness. Businesses need to adjust to the expectations of care within the workplace, not just a paycheck.

That’s why our organization is now officially advocating for a Missouri statewide bereavement leave policy. There is no national bereavement leave policy, and only five states have enacted one of their own: Washington, Oregon, California, Illinois, and Maryland. We believe it is time for Missouri to set an example of caring for its residents in what all of us will eventually experience: the loss of a loved one.

That is why I went to advocate for this change at the Missouri State Capitol on March 13th, along with the organization’s Vice President and Director of Support, Michelle Slavens.

Among those we met with or left information for:

  1. Representative Alex Riley
  2. Representative Jeff Knight
  3. Senator Tracy McCreery
  4. Representative Betsy Fogle
  5. Representative Bishop Davidson
  6. Senator Karla May
  7. Senator Lauren Arthur
  8. Senator Barbara Anne Washington
  9. Senator Caleb Rowden
  10. Representative Hannah Kelly
  11. Representative Melanie Stinnett
  12. Representative Crystal Quade
  13. Senator Cindy O’Laughlin
  14. Representative Mike Stephens
Support for a Statewide Employer Bereavement Leave Policy in Missouri
Click the icon to read the packet provided to state officials.

In preparation of this trip, On Angels’ Wings put out a survey to Missouri residents, to which more than 500 responded. My talking points with each state official that we were able to speak with included:

  • 90% of survey respondents said they either get/offer 3 days of bereavement leave or it varies/is unknown
  • 79% of survey respondents do not believe their employer provides adequate bereavement leave for significant loss.
  • 55% of business owners who responded to the survey say they don’t even HAVE a written bereavement leave policy.
  • Harvard research from 2023 showed that the cost to businesses is 5x to 20x GREATER for a distracted employee than for an absent one. Grief is a significant distraction

I’m advocating for a statewide bereavement leave policy that includes:

  • 10 working days off, paid
  • Accounting for the possibility of more than one death in a year
  • Language that specifically lists stillbirth, miscarriage, failed IVF, and failed adoption as qualifiers

We also met with a Capitol representative for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. The unfortunate reality there is that the Missouri Chamber has a blanket policy to not support any new legislation that governs Missouri businesses. The Chamber will not even have a discussion about it. Their goal is to educate businesses in hopes that they make the right decisions for their employees on their own. Therefore, our only avenue there is to get involved in one of the Missouri Chamber’s business conferences to provide attending businesses with the data we’ve collected. Sign me up!

I know this is just the beginning of the journey, and that we may not get everything we think people deserve, but I’m in this for the long haul and will do what it takes! We felt heard by most on our first Capitol day, and supported by several. I’m cautiously optimistic.

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