It takes YEARS to fully grieve the death of a loved one. However, most employers offer their employees a few DAYS of bereavement leave. This discrepancy in time causes all sorts of issues for those returning to work after the death of a loved one.
- Your brain is mush!
Your employer expects you to perform at 100% upon returning from bereavement leave and you are in a fog! Symptoms of grief include confusion, lack of focus, short attention span, fatigue, etc. Most likely you will physically look the same as before the death but mentally and emotionally you are affected. Initially upon your return it may be difficult to focus and concentrate. It is important for you and your employer to understand that your decrease in work performance is a normal result of grief and that it is only temporary. As you do your grief work, your focus and concentration will return. Keep open communication with your supervisor and hopefully you will be cut some slack as you emerge from the fog of grief.
(Case in point…I am grieving the death of my father who I loved so very much. My job is to blog. This is my first post since January 1st.)
- Your priorities have changed!
You have no time or patience for water-cooler gossip. You are not ready for after work social gatherings. You might not be as passionate about your work. Your co-workers might be put off by this change in you. Unless, they have experienced a death themselves they will not understand that death changes how you view life. Right now it is not a priority for you to worry about your co-workers. They may come around to accept this “new” you or not; after death relationships change.
- Death is awkward!
Upon your return to work after the death of a loved one it is initially uncomfortable and awkward for you and your co-workers. Is the death to be acknowledged and addressed or do you prefer not to talk about it? Should your co-workers talk about the deceased? It is best for you to guide your co-workers in how you want to handle your grief. Let them know if it is okay to talk about your loved one or not. It is the elephant in the room and by acknowledging the elephant you help eliminate some of the awkwardness for everyone.
- Grief has its own schedule!
You have no control over when grief will rear its head. It would be great to “schedule” grief to show up after work hours in the safety of your home. Unfortunately grief has its own time table. Grief does not punch in and out of a time clock. You might tell yourself that you are not going to fall apart or cry at work but then a co-worker gives you a hug and you are one big puddle. It is important to know in advance that this might happen. You can simply excuse yourself from a meeting and gather your composure.
In summary, if both the employees and employers practice PATIENCE and COMMUNICATION, then the issues surrounding grief in the workplace can be eliminated.