The Impact of Grief

how to handle griefIn the Spring of 2012, Launching Lives had the pleasure of speaking with Andrea Yingling, a Bereavement Coordinator. Her interview was incredibly insightful and very relevant to our continued discussion on workplace grief. There were some share-worthy nuggets in that interview, which can serve as strong reminders on workplace grief. Here are a few key takeaways:

Each person deals with grief differently

Everyone is unique and the way one handles certain situations is different than the next.  I usually explain to people the way you handle stress is usually how you will typically handle your grief.  If you are one to hold things in when stressed out and go about your business without discussing it with someone, you will more than likely be this way when grieving.  If you are one to verbalize your thoughts and feelings, and depend on others to help you during a stressful situation, you will typically be this way when grieving.  Now that you have recognized the factors surrounding your loss, the next thing you need to do is recognize how you are feeling.  Look at your emotions, your thoughts, your reactions.  Examine to see what you need, who you need, and what is troubling you the most.

Next, I encourage everyone to talk to someone.  Whether you think you can handle it on your own or not, it is always good to turn to someone who will be able to guide you, support you, reassure you, and validate your feelings.  This can be someone who proves to be a positive support to you – a friend, a family member, a clergyman, a counselor, a professional, a mentor.  And lastly, make sure to take care of yourself.  If you can’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to move forward.

Support grieving co-workers

People assume a lot of the time and say expressions that are unsettling to the bereaved.  Unless they tell you directly how they feel, never assume.  Avoid any expressions such as, “It will get better from here,”  “They are in a better place,”  “It’s a blessing,”  “There’s a reason for everything.”  These expressions, and others, are the last thing a bereaved individual wants to hear.  Also, how do you know these statements are true?  As humans, we try to use typical expressions to make others feel better.  But these are the last things you should say to someone.

Support your co-worker by sending them a card, a floral arrangement, or a fruit basket.  Let them know you are thinking about them.  Attend the funeral, if you feel comfortable.  Just having your presence will allow the bereaved to feel they are cared about and supported.  Words aren’t always necessary.

Grief and the impact on job performance

Grief not only impacts the workflow, the work dynamics, and the productivity, but it also impacts each person individually, emotionally, physically, or psychologically.  It is important to talk with other co-workers and offer support to one another.

Management should be made aware of individual circumstances, and proper actions should take place if it is affecting the work environment.  Again, use HR for assistance with any employee assistance programs, or possible FMLA (Family Medical Leave of Absence) or vacation days.  Every company has a bereavement policy that can also be obtained from the HR Dept.

Most companies have a two or three day bereavement policy, and frankly, someone doesn’t stop grieving in 2-3 days.  Grieving takes weeks, months, even a year or two.  Open communication is the key in this type of situation, and follow-up should take place between the employee and their managerial leader.

Remember…

Grief is a difficult situation.  It doesn’t matter how large your company is, or how much productivity your company performs on a daily basis.  Death is death, and it impacts everyone on one level or another.  Support is out there, and it’s important to use those services made available.  Remember, you are not alone and you will get through the most difficult times, as long as your allow others to help you along the way.

Want more? Check out the 12-week group coaching program, “From Loss to Light.” Hurry! The program starts February 11th!

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