Unfortunately, grief doesn’t stop when bereavement time ends. Part of returning to daily life includes returning to your career. Still, that first day, week, and month back in the workforce after a significant loss can feel impossible. Let’s explore some ideas to help you go back to work while experiencing grief without ignoring what’s happened.
Start by Openly Communicating
If you’re a team member many others rely on, your leadership may have already explained the situation to your coworkers out of necessity. This lack of awareness regarding who knows, who doesn’t, and how they may treat you upon your return can lead to suffocating anxiety.
It’s best to take control and speak with those you feel need to know. Discuss where you’ve been and how this experience may change things for a while. Consider talking about things like a need to step away to breathe, potential days off to handle estate demands, and task delegations that consider your current capabilities.
Many people want to help where they can, so don’t shy away from communicating your needs. You can also look to close coworkers as a source of comfort. Often, our friendships in the workplace act as vital opportunities for understanding and connecting during grief.
Be Kind to Yourself
Loss and grief crash into us like ocean waves. Sometimes, the sea is relentless, and you find yourself overwhelmed by emotions too powerful to comprehend as they happen. At other times, the tide creeps in slowly to give small, painful reminders throughout the day. Emotions as unpredictable as grief make getting through the workday a significant challenge.
It’s crucial to be kind to yourself and understanding of both your success and failures. Criticizing yourself over where you “should” be in your grief process or how much work you’re getting done is deeply damaging. If you find yourself internalizing these negative messages, pause, try to reassure yourself, or reach out to others for comfort and guidance away from those thoughts.
Acknowledge Progress As It Happens
The timeline of the grief process is often incredibly confusing. The loss can feel like it happened yesterday for months, yet you may also quickly forget what life was like before it happened. Understanding how to go back to work while experiencing grief means acknowledging progress as it happens and celebrating the little accomplishments along the way.
Communicating with your coworkers about grief and vulnerability is hard. Using kind internal language is a challenge before and after loss. Even logging into your work device or stepping into the office is difficult. Remember to see all these things as small accomplishments and healthy, crucial steps forward.