Tips on Returning to Work After the Loss of a Loved One

When a loved one dies, it may seem as if time stops. Eventually, however, it is important to ease back into your old routines. Household chores can only be left for so long, kids need to go back to school, and adults must return to work. For some, this may be a welcome distraction from the grief, but it can be a scary transition, and it is natural to be nervous about returning to work.

You may be anxious about seeing your coworkers for the first time after you have lost a loved one. You may even fear what your reaction might be when they express condolences. And of course, you may struggle to focus and keep up with your regular workload. This is all normal, and we have compiled a few tips to help you cope:

 

  • Choose one person – your immediate supervisor for example – to relay important information to. It may be hard, but make sure to keep in touch while you are out on leave. This way, that designated person can brief your coworkers on any updates if needed.

 

  • It is natural to feel overwhelmed. Consider starting with half-days to ease your return. If you are worried about breaking down at work, find a private place where you can take a breather and regain your composure.

 

  • Most people will want to help but may be unsure of how to do so. If a colleague offers to assist with something, don’t be shy about accepting their offer. You can ask them to handle a small task, or to double check your work if you are feeling unfocused.

 

  • Be honest with your manager about any difficulties you may have in keeping up with your workload. You may feel distracted, have difficulty concentrating or lack motivation.

 

  • Don’t overlook any formal assistance your employer may provide. Many companies have programs to help employees cope with things like this. Don’t be afraid to reach out with questions about what is available to you.

 

  • Often, the people you work with will avoid you in the workplace because they do not want to confront or upset you. This is one of the reasons it is so helpful to attend funerals; they are “safe” places to express emotion. Just remember, their avoidance is not because they do not care, it is simply because they care too much and don’t want to make you cry!

 

The most important thing is to remember that the struggles you experience when you return to work are perfectly natural and things will get easier with time. Take breaks and ask for help if you need it.

Communicate regularly with your supervisor and keep in mind that your colleagues will be expecting things to be difficult for you. There is no need to apologize for having a hard time getting back into the routine of things. You will probably find that your associates are eager to do anything they can to ease the transition.