How Do I Handle Returning to Work While I'm Grieving?

BY: Marti Dixon, MA, PCC-S

CATEGORY: Grief and Loss

It can be challenging to return to work following the death of a loved one. Most of your colleagues and your supervisors will have difficulty understanding what you are going through, and may not know the "right" things to say. You can help them by being honest and clear about your needs and wants. If you do feel like discussing your loved one at work, let a couple of trusted colleagues into your confidence.

Share with them when and where you feel discussing your loss is appropriate. If you feel more comfortable not talking about your grief at work, be sure to let them know that too. One response may be that while you are grateful for their concern, it is helpful for you to "get a break" from your grief by focusing on the tasks of your job.

Remember that your co-workers may have experienced a loss in their own lives, and they may have their own experiences to draw on. The things they say may be things that they found helpful during their grief journey, but they may or may not be helpful to you. It's OK to let them know when they have overstepped with a gentle reminder that everyone's grief is different. Each of your colleagues are making their best effort to help you through this difficult time. Understand that they care about you and that caring happens on many different levels and with great variations. If you can remember that they are coming from a place of concern and friendship even when they say or do things that are less than helpful, then you can ease back into your work responsibilities with grace and dignity.

Caring for yourself is also most important during this difficult time. Get plenty of rest, eat healthy and regular meals and get some exercise. You will be more effective at both grieving and working when you remember to take some time to care for yourself.

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