Navigating work after bereavement

To mark National Grief Awareness Day on August 30th, we’ve spoken with WAY Widowed and Young, one of our company charities, about returning to work after a bereavement.

WAY is the only national charity in the UK for people aged 50 or under when their partner died. It’s a peer-to-peer support group operating with a network of volunteers who have been bereaved at a young age themselves, so they understand exactly what other members are going through.

Top tips for returning to work after bereavement

Take your time

Don’t rush back; give yourself the necessary time to heal and process your loss before returning to work.

Providing routine

Returning to work can provide a distraction and a sense of normalcy. Interacting with others can help take your mind off your grief for a few hours. But everyone’s journey is different, so do what feels right in your circumstances.

Phased return

If possible, consider a gradual return to work to ease the transition. It can be helpful to meet up with your managers or colleagues before you return to work to help break the ice.

Dealing with colleagues

Decide whether you’re comfortable discussing your loss and communicate your preferences to colleagues, helping guide their interactions with you. If others don’t acknowledge your loss, take control and initiate conversations.

Open communication

Be honest with your managers about your emotional state and any specific needs you have in order to navigate the workplace effectively.

Anticipate your triggers

Identify any potential triggers at work and have a plan in place to step away, if needed; use quiet spaces for moments when you feel overwhelmed; make sure colleagues know what to do if you need help.

Manage expectations

Understand that your performance might fluctuate, especially on difficult days, and recognise that your best effort is enough.

Expect the unexpected

Many people are surprised how much grief impacts their ability to read and retain information. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Things will get better with time…

Establish boundaries

Set limits to prevent work from becoming a distraction from your grief; find a balance between work and healing.

Look after yourself

Find ways to ease the emotional impact of returning to an empty house after work, for example, by leaving on a light or radio. Take care of yourself first.

Alongside other bereavement charities, WAY Widowed and Young is calling for all companies to adopt a workplace bereavement policy to support their staff when they lose a loved one. 

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