When my son died, suddenly, people didn’t know what to do with me.  I had to navigate my return to work and deal with colleagues, clients and contacts. It was tough. Most people were lovely, and then there was that one client who never replied to my emails again.

Grief is universal, and yet, somehow, we are expected to leave our grief at home. Two million people in employment suffer intense grief every year and over half say their performance. Many of those find things in the months and years so difficult that they leave, either for another job, or leave the workforce entirely.

Imagine if we treated grief as an everyday stage of life that needed our understanding and support. Consider how much we give in maternity and paternity leave, and then consider that only recently has it become law that 1 day’s compulsory bereavement leave should be given for the death of a child.

The problem with grief is that we often can’t predict where it is going to strike. We can plan for menopause awareness or put measures in place to prevent mental health issues from escalating, but no one can protect us from grief, wherever or whenever it may appear

We can’t predict what someone will need either, as everyone copes in different ways. 

However, with some preparation and careful thought, we can ensure that everyone feels supported when the worst happens.

  1. The immediate aftermath.

How long someone needs to take off may vary significantly. Some people may want to get back to work straight away, others may need longer.  However long that may be, it will need discussion, agreement and management. It is also important that people know how to deal with someone when they do return to work. People are often scared of saying the wrong thing, but it’s worse to be ignored or overlooked.

  1. Adaptions and Adjustments

Grief, particularly intense or complicated grief, can take a long time to recover from. It is not a case of a couple of weeks compassionate leave, then back to work and hoping you don’t cry at your desk. Grief is not a mental health condition, but they can result, especially if support is lacking. Grief can take a physical and mental toll for some time. It can be likened to a brain injury. I couldn’t remember things unless they were written down, I lost things and became incredibly tired very quickly. I could be around people, but only in short bursts. I could still work, but needed to make some adaptations and build in time for rest and recovery. On top of that are the secondary losses. Finance, housing, health and relationships can all take an additional toll.

  1. Long term recovery

There is no getting over grief, it fundamentally changes a person. We don’t heal in a linear fashion, and there may be times when grief rears up again, like an overwhelming wave.

There can, in time, be positive changes, too, although everyone would rather it was different.  People may find a new purpose, new direction or just need a change of scene or routine. A good manager will be able to work with them to help them develop.

None of this can happen without open and honest conversations about grief, how we deal with it and how we can support each other in our time of need. It isn’t good enough to mumble through, claiming we weren’t prepared.

Compassion, thought and planning can mean the difference between sinking and swimming.

If you’d like to discuss how a session could benefit your team, you can find out more at here or email louise@armadillosocial.com