I went back to work twelve days after my husband Jim died, even though I wasn’t prepared.
I was honored to be invited to contribute to this article for AK Lander, a company in the United Kingdom: Returning to work after a bereavement.It’s a terrific article full of helpful advice that I wish I’d had when I was newly bereaved.
As many of you many know, bereavement laws are changing every year in the United States as more states adopt them, and business owners and human resource departments realize grief offers its own set of challenges and accommodation in the workplace.
Arianna O’Dell said this about returning to work:
“Grief is human-and you’re a human first, a professional second.”
Returning to Work is Another Hurdle
Returning to work after loss may be one of the biggest hurdles you will ever overcome. In the article – Returning to work after a bereavement, I wrote –
“My job was the only place where I left a part of my old identity still existed, even though my employer suggested I take more time to heal. I got up every day on time, even when it felt I was in slow motion and did things that seemed impossible – like showering and dressing and taking the subway. I felt robotic and uncertain. In the first few months, I went to the ladies’ room to cry when I felt overwhelmed.”
Read the whole article, where writer and business owner Daphne Greer (who lost her five year old daughter), and Glen Lord (who runs his own grief education institute for employers) share their experiences and recommendations along with mine—all to help you navigate returning to the workplace.
Even professional golfer Tiger Woods commented on the difficulty of playing competitive golf near the anniversary of his father’s death, saying “it’s just brutal on me”.
Your Legal Rights and How to Communicate with your Employer
I wanted to find a resource that would help you navigate the logistics of returning to work and help you learn to communicate with your employer and have a healthy, open dialogue to address your needs – which might change once you return to work.
This informative article, Bereavement Leave 101, helps you navigate everything from the laws and the time you are entitled to take, to how to communicate with your employer and even which airlines offer bereavement discounts.
Moments of Overwhelm
My free Toolbox Series offers you simple exercises you can do at your desk at work – or anywhere – when you are feeling overwhelmed.
It’s important to remember that your needs at work may shift and change. You may think you are ready to go back to work and once you try, you find you are not ready. Communicating your needs – even as they change, is the most important part of navigating your new life.
Debbie Augenthaler, LMHC, NCC, is an author and psychotherapist in private practice in New York City, where she specializes in trauma, grief and loss. Her award-winning book, You Are Not Alone: A Heartfelt Guide for Grief, Healing, and Hope combines her personal story of devastating loss with practical insights and simple suggestions for healing. Join her Facebook community, Grief to Gratitude, and follow her on Instagram.