Grief in the Workplace: Impact and How to Cope

Grief is a heavy emotion and not many people know what to do about it, especially in the workplace. Here are a few ways for you to cope while grieving.

Grief in the Workplace: Impact and How to Cope
Grief in the Workplace: Impact and How to Cope

When you are faced with a powerful loss, you may feel a deep sense of grief. This experience isn’t just emotional; it can have a physical, cognitive, and behavioural impact too.

What is Grief?

Everyone experiences grief at some point in their life. It might happen due to the loss of someone or something very dear to you. This emotion can be overwhelming and spill over into other parts of your life, like your work.

Bereavement is the experience of losing someone dear to you and grief is the response to that difficult situation. It is natural to feel angry, hurt, depressed, worried, confused, or struggle to cope with it.  Many people don’t know how to deal with such tough emotions. Not only does it affect one’s personal life, but it can be tough to return to work.

Trouble concentrating on your job
Trouble concentrating on your job

How Grief Affects Your Work

There are a lot of ways that grief can show up in your life. Here are a few things you might notice in the workplace:

  • Difficulty in returning to your job
  • Finding yourself becoming more emotional
  • Difficulty communicating with colleagues
  • Being unable to enjoy social events or work get-togethers
  • Feeling numb through the work day
  • Lack of interest in new tasks or projects
  • No longer prioritising what you did before
  • Trouble concentrating on your job
  • Low or no motivation
  • Difficulty being decisive
  • Finding yourself more confused or forgetful
  • Spending more time worrying about family or your personal life
  • Lack of energy throughout the day

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How Can You Cope With Grief?

Each person’s journey and experience with grief are different. Here are a few ways that you can manage your grief in the initial stages:

1. Be Patient With Yourself

Grief is heavy and it might take you a while to clear the fog. Being patient with yourself means giving yourself more time to get back to ‘normal.’ Many thoughts, emotions, and feelings will still bubble up after a few days, months, or even years. When you find yourself grieving, don’t force yourself to think of something else or ignore those emotions. Accepting these tough feelings can help you to get better and make peace with them over time.

Be Patient With Yourself
Be Patient With Yourself

2. Lean on Your Support System

When you are grieving, it might be hard to talk to other people about it. Shutting yourself off from the world might be your first thought, especially if people can’t seem to understand your emotions. It does help to take time for yourself, but it’s equally helpful to share your heavy emotions with another person. Accept support from friends, colleagues, and family members. If your feelings stay bottled up, it can lead to greater problems in the long run.

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3. Take Breaks Often

The emotional toll of grief can tire out your body. You might find yourself taking 1 hour for a task that used to take 5 minutes. You might also not be able to enjoy the hobbies and creative projects that you did before. That’s why you need to take more breaks during the day. A break can look like taking a nap, going for a walk, meeting a friend, or anything else that is comforting. This will help you give your body and mind some much-needed rest.

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What Kind of Support Can You Get From Your Organisation?

Here are a few things you can do to make it easier when you go back to work:

  • Keep your employer in the loop about your experience.
  • Ask for a lighter workload for a few weeks, or set a schedule where you can have more breaks during the workday.
  • Connect with your organisation’s Human Resource team to help you find support groups or to inform your colleagues.
  • Use your organisation’s wellbeing programme or counselling services, if provided.

There is no right or wrong way to feel, especially while grieving. However, you choose to cope with it, remember to be patient with yourself.

Also read: Should you disclose your mental health issues to your employer?

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