There might never feel like a good time to return to work following the death of a loved one, but the process can be made easier by thinking about the challenges you might encounter and how to handle them.
People respond to the loss of a loved one in different ways. Some people might crave the routine that work provides, others might find the idea of returning to their professional lives overwhelming at such a personally painful time. We look at the coping strategies you can adopt to help you through this potentially sensitive situation.
Review your hours
Do you feel able to return to full-time duties? Or would it make more sense to return for a few days a week at first, or carry out tasks from home for a while before making a return to your office or place of work? Your employer and HR team will be able to guide you through these decisions and agree a plan of how you will integrate back into the business.
Who should know?
You might be happy to talk openly with your colleagues about what has happened, or you might prefer to avoid the potential for awkward questions that you might find upsetting. Talk with your employer and HR team about how you want your return to work to be handled – do you want to act as though everything is ‘normal’, with no mention of your loss? Or would you prefer your colleagues openly acknowledge the reason behind your absence?
Grief can have a huge impact on your attention span and ability to concentrate. To help you feel less distracted, a to-do list or personal organiser can help you keep track of things during your working day, as can time management strategies, such as like dividing projects into smaller tasks and having a short break every hour.
Be ready for low moments
Prepare yourself for the fact that you might get overwhelmed. You might feel like you are going to cry, or be suffering from anxiety – whatever the reason, it can be really helpful to have a place to go where you can be alone. This could be a private work space or empty meeting room, or it might mean heading outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air.
Look after yourself
Don’t expect too much from yourself when you’ve just returned to work after a bereavement – remember that it will take time to adjust and if you are having trouble sleeping and concentrating your productivity levels are likely to suffer. It’s ok to ask for help so don’t struggle alone. Your colleagues might be able to take on a few of your responsibilities for a while, or you might be able to request an extension on a deadline. However, if you are really struggling to cope with your loss, talk to your employer and HR team, and request that your GP refers you to a bereavement counsellor