Understanding grief and loss in the workplace.

Grief in the workplace

  • Can have a profound effect on staff members and impact various aspects of the workplace.
  • Occurs when you or a co-worker experiences a personal loss or loss within in the workplace such as a death.
  • Can cause colleagues to experience disenfranchised grief. (Grief that is unacknowledged)

 

What is grief?

  • Grief is a normal response to loss; it is not a disease or problem that needs fixing.
  • Grief affects us emotionally, physically, intellectually, and spiritually.
  • Bereavement refers to the period of mourning and grief following the death of a beloved person. It is the state or fact of suffering the death of a loved one.
  • Anticipatory grief refers to a grief reaction that occurs before an impending loss. Typically, the impending loss is a death of someone close due to illness but it can also be experienced by dying individuals themselves.

 

Grief & on-the-job performance

  • Grief can affect an employee’s on-the-job performance and can manifest through:
    • Inability to concentrate
    • Lack of motivation
    • Difficulty with decision-making
    • Memory lapses
    • Increased risk of illness or injury
  • Grief is a process and a person does not simply ‘snap out of it’.
  • Providing an employee with flexible workload can help facilitate productivity.

 

Key leadership tasks for managers

  • Review and/or help develop company policies on bereavement.
  • Have a plan in place for dealing with workplace grief.
  • Create a workplace environment that acknowledges the grief process.
  • Develop ways to effectively address the grieving employee’s morale and work capacity.
  • Communicate with staff team.
  • Mobilize people and resources.
  • Seek support to lead the organization’s learning.
  • Give staff time and space to deal with the death.
  • Adjust employee’s workload.
  • Ensure that your employee has access to your EAP service provider.

 

Helping a grieving co-worker: “Do…”

  • Allow people to talk about their grief.
  • Honor their emotions.
  • Acknowledge their tears and other expressions of grief without judgment.
  • Attend the funeral or memorial service if you feel comfortable doing so.
  • Write a note of support or encouragement.
  • Encourage them to seek out someone who can support them.
  • Encourage self-care.
  • Be patient with them – grief can be a long process.
  • Maintain your support through the months ahead.
  • Have resources handy.
  • Respect confidentiality and avoid gossip.
  • Be compassionate.

 

Helping a grieving co-worker: “Don’t…”

  • Avoid saying anything; because saying ‘nothing’ is saying something!
  • Worry about what to say – Just Listen!
  • Avoid your co-worker or mentioning the deceased person’s name.
  • Assume you know how they feel.
  • Ignore or downplay their loss.
  • Be afraid of their suffering. Expect and be okay with tears as these are a normal part of the grieving process.

 

Finding the “right” words

  • Instead of saying: “How are you today?”
    • You could say: “How are you coping/managing today.”
  • Instead of saying: “I understand just how you feel.”
    • You could say: “I cannot imagine how you are feeling.”
  • Instead of saying: “Time heals all wounds.”
    • You could say: “Take the time you need and be patient and gentle with yourself.”
  • Instead of saying: “At least he/she is no longer in pain.”
    • You could say: “I am sad for your loss.”
  • Instead of saying: “It’s God’s will” or “God does not give us anything we cannot handle.”
    • “I am thinking about you.”

 

Hospice of Waterloo Region – We Can Help! Call us…519-743-4114

  • We offer weekly Bereavement Walking Groups for the bereaved in Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge.
  • Our MSW’s offer 1:1 counselling for those who are supporting someone approaching end of life or have experienced the death of a loved one in the last 2 years.
  • We can refer the bereaved to traditional bereavement support groups or professional counseling agencies if they require additional support.