Whether you own a business or just consider yourself a bit of a rock star employee, you might be used to putting your all into your work. Sometimes, you might even sacrifice a bit more than you should for the sake of the business. When you’re in that zone, real life can sometimes feel like a busy gnat, getting in your way. There are some occasions where it can dominate work entirely. In particular, when you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one; dealing with grief. We know that many people will feel like they should just soldier on, but it’s worth seriously considering your options.
Be honest with coworkers
You don’t know how this grief might affect you at work. It can manifest in ways that are unpleasant for you and those around you. You may not initially cope very well. That’s why it’s important that people have a frame of reference to understand what you’re going through. Be honest with your coworkers and share the situation with them. Be aware that many of them will offer condolences and awkwardly try to empathize. People have trouble showing they care in truly trying times, but it’s the thought that counts. They’ll also know that any absence or productivity decreases have a very valid reason. Otherwise, your behavior might seem erratic or even unacceptable.
If you need time, take it
Of course, you should be thinking about taking some time to yourself. If you’re self-employed, you have to be willing to let go of business for a bit. If there’s no-one there to hold the fort, make sure that you let clients know the situation. The very few that won’t be understanding are not worth keeping as clients in the first place. If you’re an employee, take the time to explain the situation to your boss and ask about leave. As any compassionate leave guide will tell you, there is no legal obligation for employers to give leave. Paid or otherwise. Still, most will offer it before you even have to ask. If you’re an employer yourself, it’s best to take the issue of compassionate leave seriously and make it part of your contract or code of conduct.
Take a load off
If you do have coworkers who can support you as a business owner, then now is the time to trust them. We know it can be difficult to delegate a business that you put a lot of time, effort and money into. Delegating is about taking the time to communicate in more detail with your employees than you might normally do. For example, you need to take the time to prioritize tasks for them and warn them of any approaching deadlines or responsibilities. We know that some of these details might slip your mind when you’re coping with loss. But do the best you can. You will likely find that the business doesn’t absolutely need you there at all times.
Don’t throw yourself into work
The flipside of taking some time to yourself or at least taking some work off your shoulders is digging your heels in. For go-getting, ambitious people, work can be more of a joy than a chore. Your work-life balance might not be the best to begin with. It’s very possible that you might not be able to take the time off work you should. We don’t talk about a work-death balance as much as we should. But even if you do, try to allow yourself a less productive rate than usual. Do your job, but don’t try to disappear in it. It’s only a form of denial that might make your grief even harder to work through.
You shouldn’t be going through your grief alone, either. The work environment might not be the best place to seek support to help you cope. But some employers will offer the chance to talk with a counselor. Otherwise, you need to find at least one person you can communicate with frankly about your experience. A lot of families can have as hard as a time talking about grief as well. If you don’t know how to talk to them or your friends, there are still other options. Consider the kind of grief support groups that could give you the environment you need. Sometimes it is a lot easier to talk to strangers. You don’t have to deal with the idea of any expectations on you.
Take the tools of coping with you
Grief isn’t done after a short time, either. It can stay with you for a long time. It can be more than just sad, it can be frustrating and it can feel like it gets in the way. That’s why it’s important that you develop the tools to deal with it. Expressing grief isn’t a crime, but when you’re at work, you might want to avoid that for your own sake. So consider ways that you can take control of your emotions, as hard as that might sound. Taking the time to meditate in the morning or keep a diary can help you process those emotions in a safe environment. At work, consider keeping your own mantra in your head that can help you ground yourself.
Anticipating the future
Of course, we can’t tell what the future is going to be like. Nor can we tell how long or how much we’ll be coping with our grief. For one, don’t expect that the five stages are going to particularly apply in your case. They’re a myth. One that can be true in elements. Denial, anger and bargaining can certainly come to you at different times. But you’re not going to be able to follow a roadmap to your feelings. Instead, accept that your emotions might be out of your control and be easy on yourself. Take care of your emotional health and be willing to accept help when you feel like things are getting out of hand.
The real effects of grief can take a long time to process and make themselves known. Be aware of that so you’re in a position to prepare and cope even in the thick of your work.