GRIEVING IN THE WORKPLACE: COPING WITH LOSS
Grief, the process of dealing with loss, is a normal part of life.
Many kind of loss can affect your work: divorce, retirement, job loss, failure of a project and so on. This write up focuses on grief following the loss of a loved one. The suggestions will help you cope with your own loss or support a bereaved co-worker.
UNDERSTANDING GRIEF AND ITS EFFECTS
Many of us experience powerful emotions when we’re grieving. The stages of grief are shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance, which may eventually help us heal or grow. Because we all grieve in our own way, we may not go through all the stages or we may go through them in a different order.
Grief has no timeline – many signs of grief may not appear until weeks or month after the loss. How the person died and how deeply we were connected to them can affect our emotional response and the time we need to grieve. For example, a grieving co-worker who seems to be coping well may burst into tears during a meeting many months after a loved one’s death.
The symptoms of grief can affect us on the job. We may:
- Have trouble concentrating
- Lack motivation
- Have a hard time making decisions
- Feel confused or forgetful
- Worry about other family members or finances
- Have low energy
- Have a change in appetite or sleep habits
- Withdraw from social situations
- Be at increased risk for illnesses or injury
We can help ourselves or our co-workers face the grief by recognizing and accepting the loss and offering support.
WORK THROUGH GRIEF
Many people find it difficult to work during the early stages of grief. If possible, take the time you need before you return to work. The following suggestions may be helpful while you’re still on leave:
- Keep your supervisor or co-worker up to date about your situation. If appropriate, ask them to share the information with your other co-workers and to relay messages, news or questions.
- Find out how much leave is available by consulting your workplace bereavement policy, if there is one, or your supervisor. Some people may need more than the standard 3-day bereavement leave before they are able to cope with returning to work. This is normal. Ask your supervisor about taking additional leave.
- Meet co-workers for lunch. The informal setting let you accept their condolences and express your feelings away from the office.
- If you feel comfortable, accept your co-workers’ offers to help with child care, meals, yard work and so on.
THESE SUGGESTIONS MAY BE HELPFUL WHEN YOU RETURN TO WORK:
- Ease into your routine. Talk to your supervisor about lightening your workload or getting some help with your duties for a while following your return to work.
- Ask for an extra 15-minute break once or twice a day and a place to be alone if it will help you.
- Say no to extra work, if possible.
- Expect that you may have concentrating and remember information. Ask co-workers to write down, email, or text important information to you.
- Meet regularly with your supervisor to let him or her now you are doing. Avoid making any major personal or work related decisions for several months or, according to some grief counselors, up to a year.
- Be patient with your co-workers. People mean well and are trying, as best they can, to acknowledge your loss. If some co-workers seem distant or unconcerned, they may be uncomfortable with loss or expressing grief. Understand that you aren’t responsible for their discomfort.
- Be patient with yourself and your emotions, even if stages of your grief seem to be taking a long time or keep coming up after you thought you had dealt with them.
ACKNOWLEDGING YOUR GRIEF
Your experience is unique. How you grieve, and for how long, cannot be compared to anyone else’s experience. There is no set time by which you should be “over it” and no set way you should handle your grief.
Accept that you may experience overwhelming emotions at times and in places that you can’t control. Even though others may be uncomfortable with your grief, try not to ignore or deny your feelings. Instead, excuse yourself and go to your office or to an empty meeting or a nearby park – somewhere you can express your feelings.
Acknowledge your grief could also mean bringing a photo or memento of the person who died to work, to deliberately using the person’s name in conversation.
Accept support from your co-workers and employer. Talk to your supervisor or human resources staff about:
- Additional leave, if you need it
- Financial advice and aid
- Employee assistance programs or grief counseling
Think of co-workers who would:
- Listen without judgment as you talk about your feelings and your loved one
- Quietly sit or walk with you
- Monitor your conversations about your loss to make sure you don’t overwhelm your co-workers
- Let other c-workers know how you’re doing so you don’t have to deal with constant questions and worried looks
- Co-ordinate offers to help from other co-workers
Accept and ask for help with tasks at work, such as completing a big project or meeting a deadline.
Expect good days and bad days when you return to work. Make taking good care of yourself a priority. Eat well and try to get enough sleep and exercise. Seek grief counseling or join a bereavement group.
Leave a Comment