Grief in the Workplace
March is a tough month for Amber and me. It will be the two year anniversary of the passing of our mother. And while time has made the pain a *little* less painful, we miss her every moment of every day. Why are we talking about this? Because while we were in the very early stages of loss and grief, we still had to be mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, partners, and, of course, employees.
Grief, tragedy, and emergencies happen to everyone and whether you are an employee or a business owner, you will be or have already in someway been affected by grief. From personal experience, I had one week off while preparing and dealing with everything that goes with losing a loved one - the viewing, the funeral, all of the things that keep you completely preoccupied until it's all said and done. And then when it's done, I had to be back at work. Where did that time go to cope? To heal? The answer is, it kept going and I couldn't keep up.
So, real talk: I brought my grief into the workplace. The fits of crying, the random onset of anger, the surreal feelings of loss, all ebbed and flowed throughout my 8 hour workday and obviously leaked into my home life. You may already know exactly what I felt and still feel to this day. Breakdowns in the bathroom, anyone?
I wanted to write this post because I know it can't be an uncommon thing, right? You take some time off work to do all of the things that need done when losing a loved one, then you come back and it's somewhat expected (or you at least expect out of yourself) to keep pushing through life and get back into the routines of work and home.
I want this post to remind you and others that grief is 100% normal and is 100% okay. But what happens when you spend your workday not feeling or acting like your old self? How do you handle grief in the workplace - a place we spend a lot of our lives at?
Psycom.net posted the signs of coworkers (or you or even management) who are struggling with grief:
- Signs of fatigue
- Low morale
- Inability to concentrate
- Expressing anger (uh, hi there, that was me)
- Lack of motivation
- Symptoms of depression
Now, here's how you can make a workplace safe for grief, according to Harvard Business Review:
- Remember grief isn't linear
- Train emotional intelligence
- Don't ignore the elephant
- Create checkpoints
While every workplace is different, and every person who is grieving grieves differently, I think at the end of the day what it really boils down to for someone who is grieving in the workplace is to let them grieve and to be a support for them. Stuffing feelings, especially sadness and loss, is extremely impractical and not efficient for a person's well-being, at least for me it wasn't and still isn't. It's been almost 2 years, but that wound is still fresh. That absence in my heart, particularly when I want to call my mom and tell her something exciting work and not work-related leaves an unexplained emptiness in my heart. I can't just push that deep down and pretend it's all okay.
So if you or a co-worker, or even a boss, are dealing with loss and/or suffering, be there for them. Be kind and patient and remember there's never a one-size-fits-all approach to grief.