Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 10.20.2022

Here’s How You Can Cope With Returning to Work While Grieving

Here’s How You Can Cope With Returning to Work While Grieving

Reviewed By: Joshua Siegel

Cross Checked By: Elizabeth Siegel

Working while grieving can be tough

The loss of a loved one — whether a close friend or a member of your family — can take a toll on your emotional well-being. For some people, the grief may be immediate and intense, while for others, the grief could come in waves. Whatever the case may be for you, returning to work when you’re still processing the loss can be incredibly challenging. You may be nervous about getting back to the office, and the possibility of dealing with mundane tasks at work can seem pointless in the face of your significant loss. 

That said, there are some things that you can do to make the return to work easier. 

Returning to work while grieving: 11 Tips for getting through

If you’re worried about working while grieving, here are some ideas that you can rely on to make the transition to work smoother and less challenging.

  • Expect some level of sympathy 
  • You may not want to be at the receiving end of some sympathy, but it is only natural that people react that way when they hear of your loss. So, keep an open mind and expect some kind of sympathetic response from your colleagues. Anticipating it can make it less hard on you. 

  • Take on only light tasks and jobs
  • Working while mourning can be painful. So, in the first few days when you’re back at work, it is advisable to take on only small tasks and light jobs. Don’t take on too much work. This can prevent you from feeling overwhelmed on your first week back. 

  • Focus on your emotions
  • You may find yourself putting aside any sudden grief that you may feel in order to focus on your work. This could be unhealthy in the long run. So, take a few minutes off to focus on your emotions and acknowledge them. This way, there is no pent up grief to deal with.

  • Control what you want to share
  • On your first day back, many of your colleagues or team members may enquire about your loss. If you find this overwhelming, set clear boundaries about what you want to share and what you want to keep private. You don’t need to force yourself to talk about the loss if it’s too hard.

  • Take the help of someone you trust
  • Another important thing that can help you if you’re working while grieving is being around someone you trust. Appoint a trusted friend or team member to communicate with others in case you do not want to interact too much on your first few days back at work. 

  • Practice what you want to say
  • In case you want to communicate something to your team or your boss yourself, practice what you want to say beforehand. This will prevent you from breaking down in the middle of the discussion, especially since the grief will be fresh and raw in the early days following the loss.

  • Understand that not everyone may know of your loss
  • Some of the colleagues you’re close with may be aware of your loss, but other people in your workplace may be unaware of it. So, they may be more casual about holding you accountable for the work you’ve done. Let them know you need some time to adjust and get used to the routine again.

  • Seek help if you need it
  • If you’re generally used to doing things by yourself, it may be tough to seek help at work if you need it. But when you’re working while mourning, it may be particularly essential to have a support system at the workplace. So, in case you need some help or support, don’t hesitate to ask for it.

  • Have a safe space at work
  • If you’re returning to work while grieving the loss of a loved one, there may be times during the day when you simply want to have a good cry. A sanctuary or a safe space of sorts can be useful here. Places like your car, the staircase landing or even a corner of the park can be good.

  • Take some time off if needed
  • Occasionally, after a few days of working, you may find that you need an entire day to yourself simply to process the grief all over again. Talk to your manager or your boss and let them know that you need the time off to recover emotionally. Working right through your grief may not be a great idea.

  • Take it one day at a time
  • Lastly, don’t worry too much about the next day or the next week. Take it one day at a time. Draw up a plan for the day, make a checklist, and cross things off the list as and when you finish them. This will give you a sense of purpose at work without overwhelming you. 

    It gets better with time

    Returning to work after the loss of a loved one is a daunting task. But like they say, time is a great healer. And as the days turn into weeks, then months and years, it mostly gets better. You will eventually reach a point where thinking of your loved one brings you more joy than grief. Until then, these pointers can help you cope.