Kellie Groover

Grief In The Workplace

Losing someone is never easy. Sometimes you see it coming, sometimes it’s a complete surprise. It’s not fun to prepare for this, but if you do, you put yourself in the best position possible to focus your time and energy on yourself instead of worrying about when you need (or when you’re expected) to get back to the office.

Sidecar Grief Final

During the summer of 2017, two Focus Lab team members lost parents. I lost my mother, and Bryan lost his father. It didn’t come as a complete shock to either of us, but it was still shocking, no matter how prepared we were. Communication with and empathy from our co-workers helped both of us get through. We both recall our boss Erik reaching out to us personally and immediately, reassuring us that we could take the time we needed, and asking what he could do to make sure our jobs were handled so we wouldn’t have to worry. I knew my job was handled. It allowed me to take the time to make final arrangements, attend the services, and grieve.

The stuff to think about for when you don’t want to think about this stuff

Does your office have a bereavement policy? Do you know it? Lots of employers facilitate a policy offering three paid days off in the event of an immediate family member passing. Check your handbook, ask your HR leader. No policy? Request one.

Note: Seeing as Bryan and I were the first Focus Lab team members to test the grievance policy, we were able to influence and help recognize that a policy change from taking three days to a “situationally appropriate amount of time” was needed.

Take some time to grieve. . . and a little extra to just sleep.

Underestimate the amount of time you’d need? Don’t beat yourself up. I remember taking it a day at a time, and kept in touch with Erik. All that stuff gets hazy when you’re planning final arrangements. It’s crazy how much time it all takes, but also how quickly it passes and you find you barely have time to actually process what has happened. My mom died on a Sunday, the viewing happened that Wednesday, Funeral Thursday morning. By Friday I was exhausted and had barely processed what had happened. I came back to work that Monday because I needed some normalcy in my life, but I very well could have taken a couple more days to myself to just grieve.

“I will say it was very helpful getting back into a routine, though, and to just be around some of the most considerate, best people I know.”

Most importantly, I felt supported. I didn’t feel rushed back to work (in all honesty, I think they thought I may have come back too soon), and I knew I could take that time without worry.

Grief can creep up at any time (several months later)

Another thing to consider is that you’re not going to be the same afterwards. You may not feel the same for a while. Things might set you off emotionally that you would never consider. You have to be patient with yourself and give yourself time. I greatly appreciate Bryan because he’s been my grief buddy through all of this. I think we both find that we are hit hardest in the midst of the everyday. . .  when we think, “oh I’ll call them and tell them this…”

How can you be there for me?

Do you have a coworker who recently lost someone really close? Send a note, take a meal, do whatever is in your heart to do. They will appreciate it more than you know. It’s also easier on both you and your coworker when they return to work. You’ve already given your condolences so you can just welcome them back and offer to be of any help till they get back in the swing of things.

Writing this post is difficult. It’s been several months now, and reliving it isn’t easy, but it’s getting easier. Grief is always difficult to discuss, especially on the job. Yet it makes things easier on everyone to have policies in place, and to allow people the space they need to grieve properly. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Taking the time you need, and being given that time, will help everyone get through things the best way they can. Support like that is crucial, and the understanding is priceless.

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