Returning to work following a bereavement

candles-209157_640One of the challenges in life most people experience is returning to work when recently bereaved.   A loss can come in many forms, the physical loss of a loved one including miscarriage, breakdown in a relationship or loss of home or property in difficult circumstances.  Sometimes, you, the bereaved person, feel naturally vulnerable and experience anxiety or stress about facing colleagues.  Much of the reason for this lies in worrying you will be asked questions about what has occurred with fears it may trigger a loss of emotional control.

Some of our colleagues will respond to our loss with a simple touch of the hand on our shoulder, others with quiet words of condolence.  But then there is the person who will want to know every detail, whether or not you want to talk about it.

One way to handle unwanted questions about your loss on your return to work is to prepare a simple response, a polite line that will set a boundary and deflect any further questions.   The night before you return to work, choose and practise your words. Use your prepared response where necessary and repeat if needed.

Grief is an individual and often private experience. Take care of yourself at this time by setting your chosen boundaries.

Reflections on Grief and Loss

I watched a program on TV recently that examined the subject of grief and how people coped when someone they love died.  It was an interesting program, in that it highlighted the different ways in which people approached living with that loss, but for me, one thing was missing.  It made no reference to the fact that grief does not only apply to the physical loss of a person, it also applies to the loss of anything we cherish or hold dear, all those people or things we are attached to.  As we go through life we may experience a whole range of increasingly challenging losses including the death of our parents, siblings or friends, job redundancies, loss of possessions to family violence, damage to property and possessions through fire or flood; ill health or ageing bodies change quality of life, spousal affairs damage or destroy relationship trust; the list goes on……..

As human beings, the experience of loss can occur quite early in life; for instance, a child losing a beloved pet.  While rituals play a part in expressing grief and processing the loss, in no way do they cancel out the sadness felt, sometimes for an extended period of time.  If you reflect on your life journey to date, you will find it peppered with losses, large and small and yet it is something we don’t talk about much in our western society.

In an east meets west approach to grief, where and when possible, we can use mindfulness to sit and be fully present with our sadness and allow it to just be.  In doing so, the grief is not denied, suppressed or pushed away, but experienced fully.  In meeting the loss in this way, we can over time effectively resolve it.  For some people, if the loss is overwhelming, then seeking the assistance of a practitioner may help them through the process.

Whatever our age or station in life, at some point in our life journey, grief and loss will be part of our human experience.  No one person is exempt.  Queen Elizabeth II, on the death of her mother stated; “grief is the price we pay for love” – a beautifully poignant expression to reflect upon.