After the loss of a loved one, it can be difficult to get your life back on track. Bereavement time includes many emotional tasks that take a toll on you. When you do go back to work, you feel drained physically and emotionally. It’s difficult to accept condolences from co-workers without crying, and it’s a challenge to focus on your work. Chances are, you fell behind while you were off, and you feel even more stressed because you need to get caught up. These issues make going back to work after a loss difficult; our hope is that this mini-guide helps you get back to work a little more easily.
Take Advantage of Your Work Routine
One of the benefits of going back to work is the structured day it sets up for you after the loss of a loved one. Many people struggle to get out of bed in the midst of their grief, but knowing that you need to be at work is one thing that gets you up and moving. While work may not be the most motivating factor, it certainly will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
For people who struggle to get back to work after a short bereavement leave, it is helpful to ease back into the routine. If you feel overwhelmed or have difficulty focusing, try to ease back in with half days. You also could ask your supervisor or HR person about transitioning back to work by working shorter weeks of two or three days per week for a little while.
If you have to go back to work sooner than you feel ready, make use of online bereavement resources to help you with the transition. Neptune Society’s free online bereavement program, 12 Weeks of Peace, is a valuable resource to help you get through your difficult time. The email series provides comfort to people who need help managing grief and includes information about support groups and websites, helpful tips and information, poems and stories, and other ideas to help you manage your grief and find peace in your life.
Visit Your Place of Work Before Your Bereavement Leave Ends
It can be difficult to see co-workers after you experience the loss of a loved one, especially because nobody knows quite what to say to you. It will be difficult for you to make small talk and answer their questions honestly, so give yourself a break by getting the awkwardness of your first day back out of the way ahead of time.
By visiting your place of work prior to the end of your bereavement leave, you will have a chance to see co-workers, put your office in order, and make the first small step toward getting back to work. You’ll feel less overwhelmed if you are there just to visit, and you will give people a chance to extend their condolences to you before you need to focus on your work. Make it easy on yourself by planning to stay an hour or two and talking ahead of time with your best work friend to make the visit go more smoothly.
Use Your Breaks to Nurture Yourself
When you lose a loved one, you need to recognize your feelings and take care of yourself. Forbes contributor David K. Williams lost his son at the age of 25 to stomach cancer, and he spoke with Jason Garner, former CEO of Global Music at Live Nation, who lost his mother to the same disease and wrote about finding peace in his book, …And I Breathed, My Journey from a Life of Matter to a Life That Matters.
Williams explains Garner’s suggestions that professionals working through grief use five tools to manage the process: one of those tools is nurture. When you have a break or lunchtime rolls around at work, you should take some time to nurture yourself. Use a few minutes of break or lunchtime to practice yoga, meditate, listen to your favorite music, go for a walk, and eat healthy foods that are nutrient-dense and will help you feel your best. If you are new to the idea of self-care, check out the 45 simple practices Tiny Buddha suggests: many of them are quick enough for you to do at work.
Going back to work after the loss of a loved one is extremely difficult, even if the work routine helps you get your life back on track. You may try to ease back to work by asking for a shorter work week or half days, making use of bereavement resources, visiting work before your first day back, and taking some time to nurture yourself.
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