How Can I Work at a Time Like This?


BY: Karen Hatfield, MMT, MT-BC, CHPCA

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

​What if I start crying? How can anyone understand what I’m going through? What if I can’t concentrate? I can barely get out of bed in the morning and now I must go back to work?

Returning to work after a loved one’s death can seem overwhelming. Depending on your situation, you may return after just a few bereavement days or you may have the good fortune to be able to take off more time. Either way, the transition back to work after a death can be a challenge.

Work can also offer a welcome return to familiar routines. Focusing on projects and spending time with coworkers can feel like a “break” from the heaviness of grief.  Some people find that going back to work is some combination of the two – both comforting and a bit overwhelming at the same time.  Below are some suggestions to help you and your colleagues as you return to the workplace as a person who is grieving.

•    Be realistic about your expectations – you may find that staying focused takes more attention and that you are more tired than usual at the end of the day.
•    Talk to your supervisor ahead of time about what might help you return successfully – short breaks, letting the rest of the team know that you do or do not want to talk about your loss, what tasks are the highest priority for you to complete.
•    Identify or create a place to take a breather away from your regular workspace.
•    Ask for help if you need it.
•    Utilize your company’s Employee Assistance Program, if available.
•    Maintain a healthy diet, get enough rest and a bit of exercise to help manage both your grief and your return to work.

As you return to your job, remember that some ups and downs are to be expected. Be gentle with yourself and with those around you as they try to find the right things to say and do.  As always, remember that there is no one way to grieve – your journey is as individual as you are.

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