Grieve and Now Go Back to Work

I am speaking to a group of marketing leaders in the Continuing Care Community on grief and what we can do to help those who have lost a loved one.

It is amazing that the topic of loss, one that is universal to every human being still produces such discomfort that we choose to ignore it, and not to develop a plan of care for those going through grief.

Why do we spend so much time marketing our services when the one thing we could be “selling” is the support one receives when a loved one dies?

What if the people who we hire would feel supported if someone in their family dies, or if there was a support group they could attend when one client after another passes away?  Would our retention rates increase?

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what to say or do for a co-worker who has to come back to work prematurely after their loved ones funeral?

Here are some things to consider if you truly want to create a supportive work environment for those who have lost a loved one. 

Within the first week after you learn of the loss or before the funeral –

  • Call the employee to acknowledge the person’s loss and use their loved one’s name.  Leave a message if necessary to offer your sympathy.
  • Have the entire department send a card to the bereaved and/or flowers to the funeral.
  • Allow time off for as many co-workers as possible to attend the funeral to show their support.

When the employee first returns to work, please keep these things in mind –

  • Tell the bereaved you recognize how difficult this time is and that you are available to talk at any time (make sure they have current contact information).  Supervisors, schedule one-on-one meetings every two weeks and be willing to listen and be open to any changes needed in their schedule.
  • Re-assign them to less stressful work if possible, or allow for shortened shifts.
  • DO NOT assign the bereaved to clients that are actively dying or whose loved one recently died.
  • Remember, you do not have the ability to increase or decrease someone’s tears, the bereaved cry easily even if you don’t talk to them.  So tell them you are thinking of them, give them a hug or write a note welcoming them back – even if they start to cry.
  • Step up to help them at work even more than usual when they return; they need your extra support.
  • Try not to stare at them or treat them differently than you did before, often the normalcy of work is helpful if those around them are supportive.

What you need to consider for all employees facing any type of loss – (the death of a loved one, divorce, chronic illness diagnosis).

  • Coordinate a grief support group if there have been multiple deaths in a short period, or if there is a large number of people going through a particular loss such as divorce.  De-briefing for caregivers is mandatory if retention is your priority.  A happy employee is one who feels supported especially in their worst of times.
  • Remember that we have two ears and one mouth – listen twice as much as you speak.  Nothing you can say can make it better, so just be a supportive, trustworthy listener.

What did your employer do for you when you returned to work after a loved one’s death?  How did your co-workers support you during a difficult time?   

This entry was posted in employers and grief, funerals, Grief, grief at work, Lessons from others, Life's Losses, Transitions, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Grieve and Now Go Back to Work

  1. Jeff Harbeson says:

    Thank you for sharing this…our working world should honor loss. Rarely does change occur unless the issue happens to the decision makers…

    • Greet Grief says:

      You are right Jeff, but I try to educate those most likely to come in contact with the grieving in hopes that their new awareness will make a difference!

    • Teal Ashes says:

      Thanks for creating this list of things to consider in the workplace. Most people mean well, but until they’ve experienced a similar loss they have little understanding of what is helpful after a death–and what is not. (I’ve added a link to your post on my “Helpful Resources” page to help more people see it.)

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