Grief and the Workplace

This week, I start a new topic:  change, loss and grief. To help introduce this topic, I thought it might be helpful to give you some background about how coaching and workplace grieving are related. Below is a Q&A.

Would you consider yourself a grief coach?

Primarily, I consider myself an executive coach who builds individual executives and managers using a holistic approach.  However, I do specialize in grief coaching and utilize these skills when a client cannot move forward in his/her professional life because of grief.   Since I opened my business four years ago, I have noticed that most clients are actively grieving about something:  a divorce, serious health problems, family death and suicide, previous job loss, lack of self confidence, marital discord, significant weight gain.  These types of issues get in the way of optimal job performance.

Do you have any certifications or any experience with coaching those who are suffering from change, loss or grief?

I, myself, am well acquainted with grief due to various situations and circumstances that occurred over several decades of my life.  Further, I have served many clients who were/are grieving for different reasons.  So I must say that I am very personally experienced with grief and coaching clients in grief.  I deal with some type of grief nearly every day in my practice.  In 2013 I am planning to enter a grief coaching certification program with The Grief Coach Academy.

What kinds of things characterize grief?

Signs of grieving include but are not limited to:  inability to concentrate and focus, crying, stomach knots, insomnia, lack of appetite, loss of confidence, unexpected displays of anger, lack of productivity, desire to isolate, general malaise, irritability, inability to plan and work through complex processes, loss of interest in things that used to provide joy and pleasure.

How can grieving and loss affect job performance?

When people are grieving, they are usually not on top of their game.  Because they are self focused, fatigued, emotional, and distracted, they typically are not able to deal with the volume of work they once handled easily.  They may make a lot of mistakes.  In addition, grieving people are not able to be fully present to others.  This has a big impact on relationships both individually and in groups.  Engaging a coach while grieving can help a person improve his/her job performance as well as reduce the anxiety associated with trying to work during such a difficult time.

Can you share some nuggets or steps one should take if he or she is grieving?

When people are grieving, they need to be gentle with themselves.  They should move forward slowly, once step at a time.  They should not expect too much of themselves too soon.  Grieving people need to get enough rest, eat nutritious food, engage in reasonable exercise.  They need to pay close attention to what their bodies are telling them and go with the flow.  It’s also important for them to avoid the trap of believing there is something wrong with them if they aren’t feeling the way their friends think they ought to be feeling.

Is there anything about grieving that people might not know or might find surprising?

Grieving is a natural response to loss, change, or trauma.  Grieving is a process that must be “lived” thoroughly for a duration of time in order for people to heal completely.  We cannot skip over the necessary phases of grief.  Each person grieves at his/her own pace and in his/her own way.  Grieving is unique to the individual.  People who are grieving generally don’t need a therapist unless they are seriously stuck and not healing at all after six months or so.  Grief is not an illness or psychological diagnosis.  It is natural, and all of us are going to experience it.

For more on this topic, be sure to check this video, which explains the reasons why employees may be grieving in the workplace.

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