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Grief in the Workplace

We expect our staff to bring their full selves to work every day. For most of us, that means showing up with our work persona, the one where we have all the answers and are confident in our ability to grow your business. I ask you, what happens when your employee’s full self has been traumatically altered overnight? What happens when they can’t discern between what is real and what must be a bad dream? Is your organization ready to handle the aftermath of that?

Studies indicate that we all develop points of reference or ‘landmarks’ that help give us a sense of familiarity, comfort and safety. When one of these landmarks are lost, we can begin to feel very insecure.

On an unconscious level, our fear of death impacts the decisions we make every day. There are whole industries built around the inevitability of it. To deny the reality of the finite nature of our human existence, can lead us to be ill-equipped to deal with death.

Organizations need to focus on profitability and growth, but please don’t let being human drop to the bottom of your priorities. The larger an organization gets, the more policy there seems to be for dealing with health and wellness issues for employees. Grief, however, tends to be neglected in much of the HR resource materials and management is often not trained sufficiently on how to deal with it.

We all know that what happens in the workplace doesn’t stay in the workplace. It finds its way into our personal lives and impacts our families. It can make us sick and impact us back at the office. In turn, what happens in our personal lives can find its way back into the workplace. Sometimes it is traumatic, and often we don’t have any better idea than you, on how to handle it.

But let’s stop calling grief a mental illness. While grief can involve elements of depression, in the sense of low mood, it is very different. Grief can make us acutely aware of what the loss of connection, can do to us. When given the time to honour that fully, grief can become something that transforms us. We don’t get over or forget our loss; we find resources to get through it, and from this emerges a new person.

Many organizations are missing out on that transformation. We are becoming more resilient and better prepared for the challenges yet to come. Our bounce back gets stronger, and we appreciate the world around us in a different way. We learn to find resources that can help us navigate our emotions and the new world we are in. We become our own personal managers of change.

You can learn from us if you give us the room to rediscover ourselves.

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