Returning to work after the death of a loved one may be the last thing on your mind. While some people prefer to return quickly in order to get back into a routine, many grieving people struggle to return to their professional lives.
In an ideal world, all employers, managers, and co-workers would receive grief education through initiatives such as Compassionate Employers. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and you may encounter hurtful or ignorant comments and attitudes. You may be overwhelmed by your workload or distracted by painful memories of a loved one. Going back to work after a bereavement is unlikely to be easy, but there are some things you can do to make it a little easier.
Be Open With Your Co-Workers To Prepare Them
After the death of a loved one, you will most likely have contacted your boss or HR department. Before returning to work, you should consider whether or not to inform your co-workers about what has occurred.
Making sure they are aware can help you avoid any awkward or upsetting questions. If that is what you want, you could also ask your manager to ask your co-workers not to bring up your loved one’s death. Alternatively, you could inform your manager that you would prefer that people not ignore the issue. They can then pass on this information to you, making the process less stressful for you.
Be Mindful Of Small Talk
Small talk abounds in the workplace. “How are you?” and “What have you been up to?” may seem normal to others, but they may feel impossible to answer for you.
Prepare or jot down a few standard responses that will divert the conversation away from anything too upsetting. Consider conversation topics that are difficult for you and how you can steer the conversation away from them. If you don’t want to discuss personal matters, asking people questions about their lives is an easy way to divert attention away from you.
Create methods for staying focused
Grief frequently has a significant impact on your ability to concentrate. Even the smallest project may seem insurmountable. Your attention span may be reduced, and you may be easily distracted and forgetful.
Even if you’ve never used to-do lists or personal organisers, now might be a good time to start. Traditional time management techniques such as breaking jobs down into smaller tasks and taking a short break every hour can help you feel less distracted during the workday.
Locate a quiet area where you can be alone
Prepare yourself for the possibility that you will become overwhelmed and begin to cry or panic. When this happens, having a place to go where you can be alone can be extremely beneficial.
If you don’t have a private work space, you could go to the bathroom, look for an empty meeting room, or go outside for some fresh air. If none of these options are available, speak with your manager about where you can go for a break if necessary.
Be kind to yourself
At the best of times, juggling work and the demands of grief is difficult. You may make mistakes as a result of your emotions, lack of concentration, and work-related stress. Your work may not be of the same calibre as it was before your loved one died.
You and your manager should not expect you to return to peak performance right away. You could double-check your work or have a co-worker do it for you, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. It will take some time for you to get back into the swing of things at work.
Continue to communicate with your boss or employer
In the days and weeks following your return to work, communicating with HR, your manager, or your employer is critical. If they’re good at managing their employees, they’ll want to check in with you to see how you’re doing. Even if they don’t schedule a meeting to see how you’re doing, make sure you let them know if there’s anything you need. If you require additional assistance, don’t be embarrassed or afraid to ask for it.