5 Ways to Cope with Work After a Death June 6, 2018

Life is full of unexpected moments and changes. Coping with the ups and downs of family issues, work relationships, caretaking and just the daily grind can tax our personal coping skills. Death of a loved one is one of the top stressors a person must handle in life. The emotions of grief, in addition to daily stresses, can bring everything to an emotional standstill.

Many times a person will experience a sense of being outside of yourself immediately after getting the news of a death. This is called emotional detaching and it is a skill for managing stress. It feels like a switch has been flipped and you go into a, “get it done and keep on going,” zone. You are reigning in emotions to be able to cope. This is a normal response to intense grief. It does however often become a problem if it lasts too long and interferes with the ability to interact “normally” with others-particularly in a place of employment.

Typical bereavement leave for most employees is 3 days. This is not enough to go through the grieving and mourning processes of losing a loved one. It requires some special coping skills and can be very difficult in the workplace. Here are 5 ways to help you cope with work after the death of a loved one.

Lean on your friends.

Friends want to help when they see their friends hurting. Identify a good friend or coworker who can help you over the rough emotional patches that pop up unexpectedly on the job. A trusted person to lend a listening ear can be critical to your job performance and even in some instances your safety on the job.

Talk to your boss.

Yes, we all need to do our best at work. Maintaining a high work ethic and meeting performance standards is critical. Speak to your boss and ask for a little bit of leeway for a couple of weeks.
Explain why you may not be performing up to your usual standard or at the same speed. Promise to continue to do your very best as you move through the mourning process.

Ask for extended bereavement leave.

Some companies will allow you to use sick leave or vacation days after a death. It may not seem like the best way to use your paid time off, however, getting some time away from the office or shop may be just what you need for your long-term emotional health.

Stay physically active.

Grief can cause you to want to shut down completely. Moving and being active will help endorphins to be released into your bloodstream which will increase your feelings of well-being. Being active helps cope with the fatigue of grief as well. If depression hits you hard, get help. Depression is a treatable illness. Sadness during grief can morph into depression. There is help. Be good to yourself.

Limit your career decision-making for a time.

If sadness and mourning are impacting your work life, don’t give up. Don’t make rash career decisions in the aftermath of a death. It can be tempting to make a change while you’re under additional stress from grief. It is better to make any potentially life changing decisions after you have had time to grieve. If you absolutely have to make any important career decisions, ask a few trusted friends or colleagues for their advice before you make any changes.

Work is where we spend most of our adult lives. Coping with death and working can be quite a trial. Remember to be kind to yourself and to find the good in life. Be gentle and don’t engage in self-critique of your career and employment habits until 6 months or a year has passed. Mourning is not on a timeline. Life does not stop for those of us grieving. Challenging work can help you move through your grief so find ways to invest in yourself at work. Get the most out of the support you get at your place of employment and never give-up.

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