Returning to work after a bereavement or any type of life-altering event (loss comes in many forms) can prove to be challenging and overwhelming in many ways.
While we navigate massive personal change and emotional pain, we are also required to somehow find a way to function and be productive at work – it’s not easy but by approaching this in a mindful and conscious way it’s completely possible. Dipti Solanki, one of the UK’s leading Grief Coaches, has ten ways you can support yourself at work whilst grieving and dealing with any type of loss:
You are not a robot
The way grief manifests in each of us will be unique. For some, it may be profound sadness, anger, fear, shock, numbness, and everything in between. It really helps to acknowledge that however, your grief is showing up that it will impact your productivity, creativity, and concentration in the short term. Placing unrealistic expectations on yourself to manage a big workload can lead to frustration and lowered self-esteem on top of the grief you are already experiencing. In short, your workload needs to be adjusted temporarily.
You don’t need to pretend
Allow yourself to be more open with line managers and colleagues about how you feel and how you are experiencing the grief journey. While this can be intensely private, general statements like ‘I’m having trouble sleeping so concentration is difficult’ or sharing just how much of your energy is being taken up outside of work with the administrative side of grief helps to normalise the real-life effects of any loss. This kind of open communication can help affect the workplace culture and slowly create positive and compassionate change even further. It helps to talk about loss.
Take more regular breaks
Grief can be exhausting, take extra care not to push through and take regular breaks.
Grief is inconvenient – make space for it
Our grief can arise at the most inconvenient times and sometimes (especially at work) it’s impossible to attend to emotions or memories that may arise immediately. While we can’t allow ourselves to feel them during the working day, you can make a mental or written note to address it later once you have finished work. Making space for your grief daily, perhaps by journaling or speaking to a trusted person, will help you avoid shutting your heart down for weeks, months or even years at a time. It’s important to note when we shut out sadness, we also can’t let joy in.
Grief brain is a real thing!
When we grieve our brain is flooded with neurochemicals and hormones. This leads to symptoms of disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, fatigue, anxiety, and brain fog. In turn, this can affect our memory and concentration. To help balance this out, it’s vital we practice self-care. This includes slowing down, eating nourishing foods, resting when we can, drinking plenty of water and taking gentle exercise. These will all help to soothe our activated nervous system and enable us to function better at work. We need to invest in practices that help our minds, hearts and bodies recuperate from the very real effects of grief.
Accept offers of help & kindness
It can be difficult to accept offers of kindness and help. Especially if it makes us want to cry or feels like an admission of not being good or ‘strong’ enough. Remember, real inner strength comes from admitting that grieving is a part of being human and accepting help eases this journey. Just know you will be able to pay this forward to someone one day.
Stop being judgemental of your own grief, grief isn’t neat and there is no right or wrong way to grieve. There is no timeline, your journey will be as unique as your DNA.
Ask for more time off if needed
Don’t be afraid to have the conversation, maybe some more time away from work or some adjustments to your working day will make all the difference and create much-needed space for you to heal and recover.
We can often end up isolating ourselves in grief and we can feel a level of pressure to just get on with things. We certainly don’t want to be judged and look like we are somehow ‘weak’ to our colleagues. Often our emotions and feelings are too private and confusing. It would feel too alien or unsafe to share them with anyone at work or home. This is when it’s important that you reach out for professional support. Remember, this isn’t a sign you aren’t coping. Rather than you need a safe space to process your emotions and make sense of your grief.
It will not feel this way forever, no feeling is ever permanent, however painful. The more we stop pretending ‘we are fine’ while experiencing grief at work the more chance we have of having a positive influence and normalising and making space for an experience that is a most natural part of life and being human.
About the author
Dipti Solanki’s new hardback journal – Grief, Heartbreak & Hope – There is So Much More to Say is available on Amazon now. More on Dipti and her work can be found on her website: www.diptisolanki.com