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Navigating The Storm: Understanding and Coping with Different Types of Bereavement in and out of the Workplace

Losing someone you love is a tempest of emotions. It’s something we all face at some point – a universal human experience that extends its sombre reach into almost every aspect of our lives, including the workplace. Bereavement, the feeling of despair or pain from the loss of a loved one, manifests in various shades of grief in the corporate context. One might be struck by the loss of a colleague, while another grapples with the passing of a family member or loved one.

Acknowledging the vast array of emotions related to loss and understanding that each individual experiences bereavement differently is paramount. But how do we address this multifaceted issue in a professional setting? What if it’s not just about the loss of a loved one, but a divorce, the end of a friendship, a job loss, or a devastating diagnosis?

In this in-depth exploration, we’ll discuss various forms of bereavement, how they play out in the workspace, ways employees and employers can cope or support, and what role compassion plays in rebuilding life post-loss.

Understanding and Coping with Different Types of Bereavement in and out of the Workplace, The Mindset Consultancy

The Many Faces of Bereavement

 

Grief at Work

Grief at work can be a silent, intense experience. The shock and sadness may be reflected in decreased productivity, sudden bursts of tears, or an overall withdrawal from workplace engagements. It is crucial for employers and colleagues to recognise these signs and respond with sensitivity and support.

Non-Death Losses

Non-death loss, often termed as ‘disenfranchised grief’, encompasses losses that are not socially recognised or given ceremonial expression, such as the loss of a job, mentor, or personal dream. These can also result in significant and deep-seated grief, potentially affecting work and personal life.

Anticipatory Grief

Anticipatory grief occurs when individuals foresee the impending loss of something or someone significant. This form of grief is not just about the actual loss but also the process leading up to it, which can be emotionally draining, especially in a professional setting where the person is expected to continue performing at a high level.

Dealing with Bereavement: The Multifaceted Approach

 

Acknowledge the Pain

Each bereavement is unique, and one’s reaction to it is personal. The first step in healing is acknowledging the pain. Employees coping with any form of loss can benefit from an open and supportive workplace environment that encourages expression and support. Employers can provide counselling services, peer support groups, or even just an open-door policy for talking through feelings.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

It’s all about finding ways to express and process the grief healthily and constructively. Engaging in sports, hobbies, or relaxation techniques can be effective in mitigating the impact of grief on work and life. Putting structure around the day and having short-term goals can also lend a sense of normalcy to those dealing with loss.

When Work Becomes a Distraction

While work can be a source of routine and normalcy, it can also become a distraction from the necessary grieving process. Employers should communicate to mourning staff that it’s okay to take a step back, and that the company supports them during their time of sorrow. Managers can work collaboratively with employees to adjust deadlines and expectations, allowing them the time and space to heal.

Support Systems

Building a support system at work, whether through close colleagues or HR-sponsored programmes, is crucial during times of loss. Knowing that you have a network of people who understand and can provide emotional and practical support can make a tremendous difference.

Understanding and Coping with Different Types of Bereavement in and out of the Workplace, The Mindset Consultancy

Unpacking Unhealthy Responses

 

Avoiding Grief

Denying or avoiding grief can be a common initial reaction to loss. Some individuals may throw themselves into work, hoping to either numb or override their feelings. It’s vital for employers to recognise and address these patterns, as they can lead to burnout and long-term emotional issues for the employee.

Dependence on Substances

In times of deep sorrow, there may be a tendency to seek solace in alcohol, drugs, or other substances. Employers can play a significant role in preventing and addressing these behaviours by providing access to substance abuse resources and fostering an environment where employees feel comfortable seeking help.

Isolation

Social withdrawal may lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation in the workplace. Encouraging a culture of inclusion, where every employee feels part of a supportive community, can help combat the effects of isolation.

The Role of Empathy in the Workplace

 

Emotional Intelligence

Developing emotional intelligence allows for a deeper understanding of the emotions that drive people’s behaviour. This knowledge is crucial in supporting colleagues through their grieving process with empathy and tact.

Policies that Encourage Empathy

Corporate bereavement policies are often transactional, focusing on the facts and figures of time off and pay. By installing policies that encourage empathy and human connection, companies can foster a supportive culture that recognises the emotional aspects of loss.

Ace the Grieving Process: Practical Steps for Healing

 

Granting Permission to Grieve

It’s essential to give yourself permission to feel your emotions fully. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. By allowing yourself to experience the range of emotions that come with loss, you begin the essential process of healing.

Understanding the Time Needed

Everyone copes with grief differently and at their own pace. Recognising that healing takes time and is a personal journey can ease the pressure to ‘get over it’ quickly, which can be a destructive notion.

Engage in Self-Reflection

During the healing process, engaging in self-reflective exercises, such as journaling or even therapy, can help in understanding and coming to terms with your loss. This self-awareness is pivotal in finding closure and moving forward.

The Power of Rituals

Rituals can serve as a powerful tool in processing grief and honouring the memory of what has been lost. Whether it’s a formal ceremony or a personal tribute at work, rituals can provide a sense of closure and peace.

Understanding and Coping with Different Types of Bereavement in and out of the Workplace, The Mindset Consultancy

Final Thoughts: Moving Forward with Purpose

 

The workplace is a microcosm of life’s challenges and changes, and bereavement is an undeniable part of that human experience. By fostering an environment that understands and accommodates the various forms of grief, organisations can become spaces not just for economic transactions but for genuine human connection and support.

Companies equipped with a robust understanding of bereavement and loss, and strategies to aid their employees, set the stage for a culture that goes beyond productivity metrics. It’s a culture that values individuals and their complex lives, reflecting a more compassionate and ultimately effective approach to doing business.

If you’re currently traversing through the cloud of a personal loss, know that it’s okay to not be okay. Seek support, lean on your community, and remember that healing is a continuous, non-linear path. 

And to those supporting grieving individuals, your role in their recovery is invaluable. Your compassion and understanding pave the way for a workplace that is not just productive, but also truly human.

Looking to support your team? Check out our services and speak to one of workplace wellbeing specialists today! Services

About the author

Zoe Grist

With a rich history in the Health and Fitness industry, Zoe excels in her role as a Health Consultant and lead content creator at The Mindset Consultancy. Her extensive educational background, featuring advanced diplomas in Personal Training and Nutrition, coupled with her pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science, equips her with a deep understanding of wellness and health optimisation. Initially starting her career in direct health service roles like gym instruction and personal training, Zoe transitioned into the corporate world, gaining experience as an Office Manager, Personal Assistant, and Project Manager. Her personal struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia has not only elevated her resilience but has also deepened her commitment to incorporating mindfulness, meditation, and physical activity into both her life and professional output. Zoe’s unique blend of personal and professional experience makes her a valuable resource at The Mindset Consultancy, where she is dedicated to inspiring positive health changes through her creative and consultative capacities.

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Zoe Grist – Health Consultant

With a rich history in the Health and Fitness industry, Zoe excels in her role as a Health Consultant and lead content creator at The Mindset Consultancy. Her extensive educational background, featuring advanced diplomas in Personal Training and Nutrition, coupled with her pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science, equips her with a deep understanding of wellness and health optimisation. Initially starting her career in direct health service roles like gym instruction and personal training, Zoe transitioned into the corporate world, gaining experience as an Office Manager, Personal Assistant, and Project Manager. Her personal struggle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia has not only elevated her resilience but has also deepened her commitment to incorporating mindfulness, meditation, and physical activity into both her life and professional output. Zoe’s unique blend of personal and professional experience makes her a valuable resource at The Mindset Consultancy, where she is dedicated to inspiring positive health changes through her creative and consultative capacities.

Tenzin Josh – BA, BSC, MA, Program Director

Tenzin has spent over 35 years in training, including 15 years as a monk alongside His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He is one of the few westerners fortunate enough to have had this incredible privilege; that of studying the traditional Tibetan language monastic curriculum. Tenzin has a wealth of experience in coaching people to train their minds to live life to the full. He has gained a deep knowledge of mental well-being techniques and meditation through years of dedicated study and practice.

Tenzin acquired a BSc in Psychology & Law, from the UK. A BA and Masters in Eastern Spiritual and Philosophical traditions plus most of a Ph.D. in the same. As such Tenzin is uniquely qualified to utilise the best from both of these traditions to teach you how to bring stability and joy to the mind and thus into your life.

Additionally, Tenzin has led and been involved in 100’s of retreats worldwide in more than 10 countries over the last 35 years bringing long-term transformation to people’s lives.

Jessica Kelly – CEO & Corporate Wellness Consultant

Jessica, Founder and CEO of The Mindset Consultancy, boasts a decade of rich experience in IT, Brand Development, and Corporate Wellbeing. Recognising the convergence of these sectors, Jessica leveraged her versatile expertise to establish The Mindset Consultancy (formerly known as Meet Your Mind) in 2019. As a qualified practitioner in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Mindset Coaching, and Corporate Wellness Consultancy, her holistic approach to wellbeing is incorporated seamlessly into her leadership strategies. Jessica also engages audiences as a podcast host, author, and keynote speaker at various events. Jessica’s international living experience across the UK, Australia, and Thailand has honed her unique insight into harmonising professional and personal life. With a steadfast commitment to fostering a wellbeing-centric culture within corporate landscapes, Jessica advocates for both employers and employees, ensuring mental health is prioritised and businesses continue to thrive and grow.

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