While there are many types of loss that can affect you and your work such as divorce, ill health, retirement, poor performance leading to the loss of a major contract etc. This article focuses on trying to cope in the workplace while grieving for a loved one.
Throughout the 5 stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance many of us that are grieving will experience powerful emotions which eventually will hopefully help you to heal. However, as we are all unique not everyone will go through all 5 stages of grief or they may go through them in a different order.
Grief has no timeframe – Some signs of grief may show instantly while others can take months to appear after the loss of a loved one. How our loved one died and how we were emotionally connected to them may affect our emotional response and the length of time needed to grief. For example, a colleague may be dealing with a customer and suddenly burst into tears, even many months after the death of their loved one.
Some of the following symptoms of grief may accept our work:
• Having trouble focusing on tasks and poor concentration
• Poor decision-making skills
• Lack of motivation
• Low energy
• Change in appetite and restless nights
By knowing the above may affect your work, we can help ourselves and co-workers by recognizing and accepting the loss and offering and receiving support.
Working while grieving
Throughout the early stages of grief, many people find it very difficult to work, this is why it is very important to ensure you take the appropriate time off work to allow yourself to grief properly before returning to work. You may find the following suggestions helpful to you while you are still off work
• Keep your manager up to date about what happened and ask him to let your colleagues know what happened and that you will be off work for sometime
• Find out how many leave days are available in your bereavement policy at work, generally, it is 3 days however you may feel you need longer. If so talk to your manager and explain you will need more day’s leave.
• Talk to your close co-workers and arrange to meet outside for lunch or dinner. By doing this, this informal setting lets you accept their condolences and express your feelings away from the workplace.
These suggestions may be helpful when you return to work
• Slowly ease yourself back into your normal routine. Talk to your line manager about lighting your workload or receiving some extra help from your colleagues following your return to work after a bereavement.
• If possible, ask for some extra time during the day where if needed you can leave the building to get a few minutes fresh air outside to help clear your head.
• Say no to extra work, where possible.
• Accept that it is normal to have problems focusing or concentrating while you are grieving, so pay extra attention and write things down where needed.
• Be patient with your co-workers and the general public. Some people mean well by trying to acknowledge your loss while others will seem unconcerned, don’t take it personally.
Acknowledging your grief
Everybody griefs differently, we are unique and all process it in our own way. So how you grieve and for how long cannot be compared to anyone else’s experience. Accept that you may experience overwhelming emotions at times and in places that you cannot control, this is normal and is all part of the grieving process. Some people may be uncomfortable when you experience these emotions, so where possible just excuse yourself from the situation and get some alone time and fresh air. Learn to accept support and help from your co-workers and speak to your manager and keep them updated on how you are feeling.
How to help a grieving co-worker
While your grieving co-worker has returned to work, this doesn’t mean that their grieving has finished. Generally, it takes people months to years to come to terms that their loved one has passed away. While at work your co-worker may show signs of grief such as bursting into tears randomly, withdrawal from social situations, getting angry sometimes for no apparent reason and finding it difficult to concentrate.
Grieving co-workers may need:
• For you to acknowledge their loss and speak about their loved one. By purchasing a memorial gift it shows you care about your colleague. You can search online for memorial gift ideas
• Extra help in the workplace to lighten the workload
• Relief from constant questions about how they are feeling
• Patience and compassion and simply knowing that you are there for them
• Accept they may need some alone time
• Be a good friend and don’t try to analyse and be a therapist
• Attend the funeral if possible, and bring a bereavement gift
• Be available for your colleague if they need to talk
• Understand that you may not be able to make them feel better but maintain your support for as long as it is needed.
• Ignore the loss of your colleagues loved one
• Try to avoid where possible mentioning the loved one’s name
• Stay away or try to avoid your grieving colleague