Returning to Work After the Death of a Loved One
The death of a loved one is often unexpected, and the grief can be devastating. While most jobs will give you some leave for bereavement, it often adds up to just a matter of a few days. The 3 or so days your job may give you for bereavement is rarely enough to deal with funeral arrangements, the wake, and the burial; let alone to give you time to process your grief. Life after the loss of a loved one can be incredibly different. You can’t really just shut off your grief and go back into the office. You will have to deal with your grief at work, and that can be difficult.
When do I Have to Return to Work?
It depends on the company you work for, but three days is fairly customary for bereavement leave. When you notify your place of work that you will not be coming in because of a death in the family, you should find out what your company’s bereavement leave policy is. If you feel that you need more time to get your affairs in order, or simply to have time to grieve; you may want to consider using some of your personal days.
If you have a lot of sick days or vacation days racked up, you may want to use them to get everything together. After the death of a loved one, there can be a lot to take care of. Estate distribution, cleaning out their property, working your schedule around not having them there; and with all of that, finding time to grieve.
Returning to Routine
Ultimately, you will have to return to work. When it comes to grief, sometimes returning to your normal routine can be helpful. It is good to have something solid to stick to when everything else seems to be out of control. Going back to work can be stabilizing for many people who are experiencing intense grief. Speak with your HR department about accommodations that can help you ease back into your routine. You may need to reschedule your work time after the loss of a partner; in order for you to get your kids to school on time. If you feel that you need to return to work part time while you work on rescheduling everything, work with your HR department to figure out what is the best course of action.
Grief Resources in HR
Your company’s HR department will be able to help you with your grieving. Most HR departments can provide you with a number of grief resources. Communicate how things are going with your boss and the Human Resources department. If you are struggling, let them know and ask for support.
When you return to work, it can be difficult to deal with all of your co-workers saying “I’m sorry for your loss” and “How are you holding up?” It can be difficult to keep having those conversations over and over again. Consider asking HR to inform your co-workers that you are dealing with the death of a loved one when you initially call out for it, so that you don’t have to go through telling each of your co-workers what happened. It may be helpful to ask HR if they could share some information about grief with your colleagues, so they might know what to expect upon your return. It isn’t your job to make your co-workers comfortable with your grief. If you don’t want to discuss it, then let your co-workers know that. They will probably be understanding.
Apathy at Work
Apathy can be a side effect of grief. At some points you may not want to keep working, or even go into work. Grief can affect how we prioritize things. Don’t make hasty decisions. Hold off on writing your resignation letter until everything feels a bit more normal. Odds are you will eventually realize that you don’t want to quit.
Focusing on Work
It can seem impossible to focus on your work after the loss of a loved one. A lack of focus is one of the most common symptoms of grief. If it is increasingly hard to focus, consider taking a break; even a walk to the water cooler can be cathartic. You may want to ask a co-worker or supervisor to double check your work before you send it out, just in case. Keep a to-do list, to help you stay on track.
There is no easy fix to returning to work after the death of a loved one. Grief is never easy. Just try to ease back into the swing of things, and take time to grieve if you need to. Ask for some help or support at work if you need it. Grief is something that everyone goes through; but it is important to deal with it, rather than suppressing it.
The author of this post is not a professional therapist or counselor. For assistance in finding a grief counselor that is right for you, there are a number of resources out there. For our Grief Resource center, written by Dr. Bill Webster, click here.
For almost 50 years, Matthew Funeral Home has been serving the Staten Island community. We can help with almost every aspect of your loved one’s memorial service. Our family is here to serve yours, every step of the way.