Grief is arduous and unforgiving. Bouts of uncontrollable sadness are nonlinear and certainly take no consideration of whether you’re in at work or in the comfort of your own home. The loss of a loved one is a sad fact of life and though your world has come to a halt, the world around you keeps on moving. How can you fathom moving forward without your loved one by your side? In this blog, we will offer some suggestions for both employees and employers to support each other through bereavement and return to some sense of normalcy.

To know how to support someone through grievance you must understand grief. Grief is defined as, “the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or some living thing that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.” Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, behavioral, and social dimensions. Grief knows no bias and it can affect anyone at any given time.

From an employer’s perspective, understand that grief affects everyone differently and privacy is just as important as support. Adjust your expectations upon the employee’s return to work. Suffering the loss of a loved one can take a toll on one’s motivation levels, and things that used to be important may not feel so urgent or pressing anymore. Consider adjusting their workload or offering a modified schedule to allow the employee to ease back into a routine. While some employees may want to dive into a project as a form of distraction, others will find it hard to make it through a day without crying, and that’s okay. Offer the employee a safe space to grieve during this challenging time.

With the employees’ consent, provide coworkers with information regarding funeral arrangements, time away from work, and how the individual is coping. Sometimes the circumstances surrounding a death are personal. Understandably, the employee will likely not be comfortable having to reiterate details time and again so encourage coworkers to give space. Try keeping the workplace as normal as possible and allow the employee to make forward movement as they regain stability and confidence.

From the perspective of the grieving individual, keep doing your best. While on bereavement leave keep the line of communication with your employer open and be honest about how you’re coping. Nobody expects you to bounce back from this with the snap of a finger and dismissing your mental state will only delay your recovery process. Understand that grief shows through sorrow, anger, and exhaustion and it’s important you let yourself process the emotion. Brush up on your company’s bereavement policy including time allotted and whether it is compensated or not, and further discuss options with your employer including an office visit prior to your return or your needs for support and privacy.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Be respectful of your limits and understand that you may not be as productive or focused, and that’s okay. If you feel comfortable, discuss mental health resources or grief support options with your HR department. Let your coworkers know what is helpful to you when you are experiencing a particularly hard day: giving you a hug, allowing you to have some alone time, fixing a cup of coffee, or going for a short walk. Understand that your coworkers care about you and are only trying to help.

Unless you have grieved the loss of a loved one it can be hard to comprehend the process. It’s, unfortunately, something that we will all face at one point or another and the patience and support coming from those around us are important to move forward.

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