Coping with Loss in the Workplace
It seems as though the stretches of time during this global pandemic have been divided between announcements of the loss of one great public figure to another, backfilled by continual news of COVID morbidity rates, amid the loss of our way of life- leaving many with the intense feeling of catastrophic loss. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an inspirational human, whose existence made the United States and the world a significantly better place. The news of her death hit hard on Friday and is likely to be a topic of conversation in the workplace today. As a nation we have yet to collectively mourn our COVID losses, because typically the time for mourning is after the loss and we are still very much in the thick of it. But let us pause today to take a deep breath and slowly let it out.
Signs that grief is influencing your workplace include: low morale, low motivation, a change in small talk, outbursts of frustration or anger, a fatigued appearance, inability to concentrate, and signs of depression. Many organizations have a bereavement policy which typically includes three days of leave per certificate of death of an immediate family member. But as you read this you may realize how limiting or even detached such policies seem. A person may feel a significant loss for an extended family member or close friend. People are at the core of organizations; they provide services, bring ideas to life, and are the end consumer, and people are emotional beings. The ability to work with emotions to enact policies with empathy and the employee in mind, significantly contributes to success. Ensure your organization is equipped to address loss with these best practices (1) have policies, but don’t only have policies, (2) train on emotional intelligence, (3) acknowledge the loss, (4) encourage flexibility, (5) create mental health checkpoints, and (6) respect privacy.
When experiencing loss, you may feel shock, anxiety, anger, sadness, loss of appetite, and insomnia. The world continuing on seemingly unchanged may feel odd. Imagining the future without that which you have lost may be difficult. Give yourself time to process your grief and reimagine your way of life. Remember, recovering from loss is not a linear process- denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance can be experienced in any order. To find comfort and a sense of stability, ask for help from others and connect with people. Practice calming and coping strategies like creating rituals around memories or visiting a meaningful place. If you are worried about future losses, try to stay in the present and focus on aspects of your life that you have control over right now.