Grief in the Workplace

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Last week, I had an opportunity to speak to a group of claims personnel, rehabilitation professionals and nurses, who work in the workers compensation insurance field. My talk was about how grief is a significant component for those who have been injured from a workplace accident.

The talk went very well and I saw many heads nodding in agreement and understanding, when I spoke of utilizing a holistic approach with alternative modalities, to help injured worker find healing for themselves through Mind-Body-Spirit “medicine”.

Little did I know that my real purpose for being at this event was to help a grieving spouse…

After my talk, an individual immediately approached me and introduced himself. He told me that he really related to many of the things I spoke of about grief, because his spouse had died six month earlier. He told me that he had reviewed my PowerPoint (which had been sent out to the participants the day before), and he said he wanted to come to this event, mainly to hear my presentation because it had to do with grief.

I could see the sadness in his eyes as he told me the story about the unexpected death of his spouse. His story went into great detail about the events that began his journey into grief, but he never mentioned his spouse’s name. When I asked for his spouse’s name, his eyes filled with tears and he had difficulty getting the words out… the pain of his deep grief was palpable.

I asked him if I could give him a hug because I sensed he needed a human touch… to know that I saw him, I heard him, and I cared.

I decided to gift him my book, The Mourning’s Light: Life After Child Loss, because my book speaks not only about child and sibling loss but about grief that surrounds the death of a beloved family member. This gentleman took my book, sat back down at his table and immediately started reading the book.

It struck me that morning, that there are many grieving workers in the workplace. I wondered how much time leaders really spend with their associates who are in the depths of grief? As a “recovering” executive, I reflected back on my interaction with employees who had suffered the death of a loved one and I realized that I did not spend nearly enough time with those who were grieving.

We send flowers or memorials, and we try to have representation at the funerals but when the grieving employee comes back to work, it seems like we expect to go back to business as usual… but it is not back as usual for the employee who is in mourning, and it never will be.

I think business leaders need to remember to take time well after the funeral, to spend a few minutes with their employees who have experienced the death of a loved one. Don’t be nervous. Don’t retreat. Don’t forget.

In my book, I end with the following:

  • Allow the family member to tell his/her story (even if you are hearing it for the hundredth time). Our stories are an important part of the healing process by allowing us to be seen and heard.
  • Honor the person who died by speaking about him/her by name. Many times people shy away from talking about the person who died. The person who died has a name and his/her spirit is important to keep alive.
  • Follow the lead of the person in mourning. If he/she wants to talk – talk. When he/she wants to sit in silence – sit with them in silence.
  • Love them unconditionally.

Yes, as a leader in an organization, I am talking about loving your employees… love them enough to take extra time and effort to BE with them, be a light to shine on them during what could be the darkest times of their lives.

How are you as a leader, when dealing with grief in your workplace?

For the remainder of this month (July), all proceeds from my book sales will be donated to Eagle’s Healing Nest (www.eagleshealingnest.com).

The book is available in paperback or Kindle versions on Amazon.com.

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