Grief in the Workplace: Managing and Coping Effectively

Learn how to properly manage grief at work and how to ensure you are healing effectively overall.

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We have discussed previously how difficult, and unhealthy at times, it is to separate work and family. But, when tragedy strikes, it can become even more difficult to stay focused at work. Pretending like grief doesn’t exist isn’t the answer. Employees who are grieving need special attention. If you have ever suffered the loss of a loved one, a major illness, or an upsetting life event, you have probably grieved. Read below for tips on how to best manage your work and life when you’re grieving.

Step 1: Recognizing Grief

Sometimes, when we are grieving, we want to push the emotions aside instead of dealing with them. However, if you don’t face it, you can’t cope with it effectively. Grief has both physical and emotional consequences, so it’s important to look for both. Generally, it includes emotions such as sadness, anger, guilt and despair. Normally, grief will subside over the course of a few months, if you recognize it and deal with it appropriately. If it lasts longer than 6 months and is causing serious psychological distress, you should seek professional treatment.

Otherwise, you are likely experiencing normal grief. This means you need to work to take steps to cope with it on your own. Generally, when grief is first experienced, you are likely to feel disbelief. Later, it morphs into feelings of yearning for the past. Next, anger is likely to result from feelings of loss. Finally, you may feel depressed once you accept that the loss is permanent. If you are experiencing these emotions, you are likely grieving and should keep reading for tips.

Recognizing grief is key.
Recognizing your grief is key to coping with it effectively.

Step 2: Find Your Tribe

Social support is really important after experiencing a loss. Otherwise, the grief may go unrecognized by others and you may feel alone and more distressed. Before you tackle how to handle this at work, it’s important to work through your emotions with people you feel comfortable with. If you have really strong, trusting relationships with others at work, you may be able to go straight to coworkers. However, in many workplaces, expressing grief isn’t as acceptable, unless it’s more controlled. So, it may help to work out your emotions as best you can before coming into work to discuss them. That way, you can have greater control over how you present yourself to your boss or other coworkers. So, find your closest friends and let it all out! It’s not embarrassing – everyone will go through this at some point!

Step 3: Talk About Your Grief at Work

Once you figure out the best way to discuss your grief with coworkers, it’s time to approach them about what you’re going through. This is crucial because, if coworkers don’t know that you’re experiencing grief, they can’t help. It’s possible that you will become disconnected to your work or feel less motivated during the grieving period. But, if you don’t let others know about your loss, they may misinterpret your feelings of grief. So, give yourself a pep talk, remember that it’s ok to express emotions at work, and tell your coworkers what you are coping with. It might also help to find common ground with them by asking them if they have ever experienced grief (even as a rhetorical question) before letting them know about your experiences.

Grief takes a village
It might seem easier to tackle grief on your own, but it takes a village to heal a broken heart.

Step 4: Think About How Work Might Help You Grieve

Finally, during times of grief, you might find work to be more of a chore than a help. But, if you can focus on aspects of your work that might actually help you to heal, you might be better off. For example, what is the good that your work is doing for others on a daily basis? Focusing on that can help you to recognize the bigger picture of your job. Maybe you lost a loved one, but they were always really proud of the work you did. Connecting your work to your loss can help you to put meaning back into your work life.

If you don’t feel connected to your work in that way (which is something you should also work through, as we have discussed before), you might try to add something to your work and life that helps you to feel more connected to your grief in a positive way. For example, maybe you can enlist some coworkers to run a 5K for cancer research, if you lost a loved one to cancer. Perhaps you can invite some single folks at work to join you in a Sunday bike ride, if you’re going through a divorce. Start a self-help book club or a goal-setting group with like-minded colleagues. By adding meaning-making activities into your work routine, you might help to create more motivation toward your work overall.

Grief is really tough, but it’s completely normal to experience it. Recognizing it, finding social support, talking through it at work, and thinking about how to cope with grief through work can help. Have you dealt with grief while working? What strategies did you use? We hope these tips help for readers who are experiencing grief currently or who will experience it in the future.

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