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Navigating Grief at Work: Finding Balance Amidst Loss

Grief is a heavy load to carry, and it doesn't care whether you're at your desk or curled up on the couch at home. Dealing with grief while clocking in can feel like trying to balance on a tightrope. It's not easy, but it's possible. In the last few months our team has experienced great losses, from a dear friend and team member to parents, pregnancies, and pets. In our own way of healing and moving through this time together, we have put together some thoughts and practices that we’ve found helpful. Our hope is that if you found this post and are in the midst of grief, it will help you walk that tightrope too.

Things we didn’t know about grief…

  • It takes a toll on your mind and body. Your body can experience:

    • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea, indigestion, cramps, bathroom issues…

    • Grief can greatly affect your sleep patterns and depth of sleep/rest

    • Skin blemishes/Acne

    • Hair loss

    • More flare ups in pain or chronic pain/illnesses

  • The effects on your mind:

    • Depression/Anxiety

    • Feelings of hopelessness or fear of the future (a life without the deceased)

    • Bouts of disassociation or a general feeling of disconnectedness

    • Forgetfulness/Fog

    • Short attention span/Inability to focus on tasks

    • In some cases, symptoms of PTSD

The truth is, grief is unique depending on the person. It is different for every individual involved because relationships between the deceased and the living are one-of-a-kind.

Even though there aren’t many one-size-fits-all rules for mourning, we believe it’s imperative to share our experiences with each other; to destigmatize the unpredictability of the process as a whole.

1. Embrace Your Emotions

First things first, it's okay to feel a rollercoaster of emotions when you're grieving. Grief is not exclusively the emotion of sadness. A lot of the time, it's just a bizarre state of feeling “really weird.” The key is to let the emotions flow and embrace the waves. You cannot control when grief comes and goes. It is truly “waves” - some small/some tsunami like. Just let it come. Whether it's tears, anger, or numbness, acknowledging these feelings is the first step towards healing. Some days you will move mountains. Some days you will move from the bed to the couch.

2. Talk It Out

Open up a line of communication with your boss and colleagues. Let your employer know about your situation when you're ready. This isn't about oversharing; it's about letting them in on what you're dealing with so they can offer support if needed. Don't hesitate to share the news with your work buddies too. They might surprise you with their empathy and willingness to help.

3. Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries

Setting boundaries is your secret weapon here. Figure out how much you can realistically handle at work during this time. Communicate these boundaries to your boss and colleagues. Grieving is done with others and also by yourself. Don’t underestimate alone time. It has been invaluable to process. Remember, it's perfectly okay to take time off or ask for a lighter workload.

4. Make Your Workspace Yours

Your workspace can be your sanctuary during this challenging time. Personalize it with things that bring you comfort, whether it's a photo of a loved one, a calming playlist, or your favorite scented candle. These little touches can provide solace in the midst of a busy workday.

→ Sticky note reminders have been small but powerful way to make it through the day. I leave sticky notes with words of affirmations on my mirror and a sticky note on my computer with the ONE big important task I’d like to get done that day, along with a reminder to be gracious with myself if I don't get to it.

5. Seek Professional Help

If the weight of grief becomes unbearable, it's a sign to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can be your guiding light through the darkest days, helping you process your emotions and find your way back to stability.

6. Lean on Loved Ones

Your friends and family are your anchors during this storm. Reach out to them for emotional support outside of work hours. They're the ones who'll lend a listening ear, offer a shoulder to cry on, and remind you that you're not alone.

7. Be Kind to Yourself

Practice self-compassion. Understand that grief is a rocky road with no set itinerary. Your productivity might dip, and your focus might waver, and that's perfectly okay. Avoid self-criticism and treat yourself with the same kindness you'd offer a friend in your shoes.

8. Explore Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)

3 Day of bereavement leave is just not enough. Your workplace might have a treasure chest of resources waiting for you, though. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) often offer counseling services, support groups, and valuable resources tailored to help employees dealing with personal challenges like grief. It’s important to ask what’s available.

9. Flexible Work Arrangements

If your job allows, consider flexible work arrangements. Working remotely or adjusting your hours can make it easier to balance your work and emotional needs.

10. Reflect

Grief often sparks deep introspection. Use this time to reflect on your goals and whether your current job aligns with your long-term aspirations. It's a period of self-discovery that might just lead you down a path you never considered.

11. Give yourself grace around making plans

Grief is an emotional/mental and physical journey. Losing someone, especially a close relationship, affects us on a deeply subconscious level. Life is fully rearranged.

If making plans feels good in one moment but that commitment feels like too much when it gets closer - it’s okay to cancel. Bring gentle awareness to what you need at any given moment and flow with that. When you’re ready to engage with others, you will.

One really helpful way to go about this is to make a plan A and plan B, especially for all of the first “big” days without the loved one you lost (holidays/birthdays/etc).

Plan A: Communicate that the offered plan sounds fun and you’d like to consider it but need to leave room for your emotions the day of. If it’s a “big” day, maybe preemptively think of a nice way to remember them/honor your lost loved one so it’s not overwhelming the day of.

Plan B: If you want to totally blow it off and just let the day go by, that’s OKAY! It’s all about doing what makes YOU feel comfortable.

→ Example: I went to dinner with my dad on my deceased mom’s birthday. We didn’t talk about her much at all. Meanwhile, my mom’s sister ordered a birthday cake and sang and everything… Whatever floats your boat! NO judgement.

At the end of the day, navigating grief is a deeply personal journey. It's about embracing your emotions, leaning on your support network, and communicating your needs with your family, friends, employer and colleagues. By setting boundaries, seeking help when necessary, and practicing self-compassion, you can find a way to balance your emotional well-being with your professional responsibilities. Remember, healing is a unique journey, and it's entirely okay to prioritize your well-being along the way.

A word from our team:

"New waves of grief still hit while simultaneously living presently and experiencing joy or at least light. We never knew joy and sorrow can live together. That they intertwine in our lives. It’s such a wild experience that is hard to put into words."

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