Returning to Work After Losing a Loved One

Today we are pleased to share a post from Julie Morris, Life and Career Coach

The grieving process is different for everyone, and it’s common for people to take a year or longer to come to terms with the emotional and life changes that follow the death of a loved one. Although people may grieve for years, life goes on. Parents tend to children, students go back to class, and adults go back to work. Returning to work while your emotions are still on edge isn’t easy, but there are ways to make the transition smoother.

Dealing with Emotions

Be real and be honest. You don’t have to pretend that you’re 100 percent back to your normal self. No one expects you to be. Holding in your emotions isn’t healthy. Instead, allow yourself to feel and experience the emotions. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to shout, shout. Excuse yourself to the restroom, step outside, or take a short break in your car if you need a moment to cry or shout. “Pretending everything is okay when it’s not does not honor your experience or the memory of your loved one,” says David K. Williams in Forbes.

Keeping yourself occupied with work may seem like a good way to keep your mind busy and away from your emotions, but you need time to breathe. Set aside times in the day to get up from your desk to stretch and concentrate on your breathing, even if it’s just a few minutes. “The breath is a powerful message to the body that we’re safe, loved, and that everything is okay,” says Williams. Whether you take refuge in the bathroom stall for a few quiet minutes or spend a minute at your desk focusing on your breath, there are ways to incorporate small meditation moments into your workday.

Let Your Work Help You

Forge connections at work. Everyone experiences the loss of a loved one. Chances are, your coworkers and bosses have dealt with similar experiences, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. Creating a community of support is part of dealing with grief, and while you automatically turn to friends and family, don’t forget about your work community. Most companies and coworkers will understand that you’re not going to be working at your full potential when you first return back to work. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to complete an assignment. If someone offers emotional support, tell him or her how you’re doing.

Speak to your boss and HR department about what you’re dealing with. Explain that you lost a loved one and that you’ll need time to adjust. Although coworkers will likely be willing to help, you have to ask for help to receive it. Be specific about the assistance you need. Remember to thank your fellow employees and let them know that you appreciate their support.

Care for Yourself

After losing a loved one, people feel like they are required to rush back to work and jump back into the busy bustle of life. However, doing this without taking time to nurture yourself can make you feel abandoned and ignored. Make time to care for yourself, especially after you return to work. Eating a well-balanced diet helps deal with the stress of grief, and getting adequate sleep is important because dealing with loss is exhausting. Exercise, whether it’s yoga or running, can help improve energy levels and ease agitation, anger, and depression.

Be patient in your grieving process. It will likely have its ups and downs. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you spend an entire day crying or can’t seem to shake feelings of anger for three days in a row. Many people find it easier to manage their grief when they reach out to a counselor. Other people attend support group meetings, read books or blogs on loss, or utilize online bereavement programs.

Many businesses offer three days of paid time off for bereavement of the loss of a loved one, and some offer five days if the loved one is an immediate family member. In certain circumstances, you can use the Family and Medical Leave Act for additional unpaid time off that protects your job. Returning to work after losing a loved one isn’t easy, but by being honest about your feelings, asking for help, and taking care of yourself, you can make the transition easier.

Julie Morris is a life and career coach. She thrives on helping others live their best lives. It’s easy for her to relate to clients who feel run over by life because she’s been there. After years in a successful (but unfulfilling) career in finance, Julie busted out of the corner office that had become her prison.

Today, she is fulfilled by helping busy professionals like her past self get the clarity they need in order to live inspired lives that fill more than just their bank accounts. When Julie isn’t working with clients, she enjoys writing and is currently working on her first book. She also loves spending time outdoors and getting lost in a good book.