3 Tips for Returning to Work After Losing a Loved One Regaining Your Routine
This is a guest post by Julie Morris, a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can.
- Wes Saade, M.D.
It is extremely difficult to transition to a regular routine after the death of a loved one. When the time does come to return to work and some semblance of normalcy, you may have conflicting feelings. It will be good to get back to a routine and focus on work instead of your grief. At the same time, it seems nearly impossible to bear the thought of doing so because you don’t know how you’ll focus or field questions and condolences from colleagues.
We share three tips below to help make your transition as smooth as possible for returning to work after losing a loved one.
1—Remember That You Don’t Have to Share Your Story
One reason people dread returning to work after the loss of a loved one is facing the questions and condolences from colleagues. It is kind of people to acknowledge your loss and inquire about your well-being, but it’s difficult to be reminded of the loss and feel as though you need to respond at length. Keep in mind that you don’t need to share your story or any details that you don’t want to share. In fact, you are justified in responding with a simple thank you and moving on with your day.
It’s also acceptable for you to excuse yourself from situations that make you feel uncomfortable or that cause you to cry or break down in the presence of colleagues. The majority of your colleagues will know what happened and understand your emotions. You also can send a quick email to your colleagues or post a short thank-you in a common area on your first day back to inform people of your loss and make potentially painful encounters a little easier by giving people a bit of information about your situation.
2—Use Work as a Temporary Distraction
It is good for you to get back to a schedule and routine after your bereavement leave. Focusing on work and being productive help redirect your thoughts and give you a break that will help you heal. Regaining a routine and some stability will promote good mental health and help you feel more at peace for stretches of time each day.
However, you should be cautious not to throw yourself completely into work after the loss of a loved one. If you ignore your emotions and stay busy to avoid the grieving process, you will not be on the path toward healing and recovery. Grief is a natural process that you need to experience, and balancing it with work that helps you focus on tasks rather than the death of a loved one will help you manage your feelings in a healthy way. Here are some tips on how to take care of yourself mentally and physically when going through a hard time.
Should you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or unable to focus at work, you should consider using bereavement resources designed to help you heal and find peace in your life. Free online bereavement programs offer support through your grief via weekly emails containing materials such as support group and website resources, tips and information, poems and stories, and ideas that can help make your journey to healing more bearable.
3—Rely on Your Best Work Friend
People want to help during your time of loss, and one person who will be the most help to you at work is your best work friend. Take advantage of this friend’s offers to help you, from joining her for lunch, to trusting her to communicate with the rest of your workplace for you. In fact, your work friend should be the person whom others contact to offer condolences, deliver cards, or send gifts. If your work friend fields these communications for you, you’ll be able to focus on work and not spend time worrying about how to answer people or accept condolences when you don’t feel up to doing so.
Be honest with yourself about returning to work after the loss of a loved one. It will be a trying time, but if you remember that you don’t have to share your story, use work as a temporary distraction, and accept help when you need it, you will transition to work as smoothly as possible.
Author: Julie Morris
Thank you, Julie, for the relevant and insightful advice, not only for those who have lost a loved one, but also for the benefit of those who work with someone experiencing grief or loss.
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