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Here’s How You Can Manage Grieving While at Work

by Carolyn Lee Jul 15, 2019

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Dealing with grief can be an uncomfortable, painful and isolating feeling.

Grief can be caused by losing someone (death), the end of a long-term relationship, the loss of a job or even separation due to migration, among other things.

Author, Joan Swift in the book, When Death Isn’t Fair describes grief as ‘a rollercoaster of emotions.’ She notes that we grieve differently, while dealing with the same situation in a completely different manner.

There are seven stages of grief that someone may go through. This is outlined in the book, On Grief and Grieving, co-authored by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler. The seven stages include shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing and acceptance. People can go through any stage first, as the process has no particular order.

When we lose someone to death, it takes a lot of courage to get back to what was once “normal”, such as work. Most companies are very gracious in allowing time off to take care of the responsibilities that come with grieving.

However, since we grieve in different stages, the process can take a while. It is crucial to reclaim some amount of normalcy and to get back to work may be helpful. Added to this, once the assigned period offered by our company has been exhausted, we are expected to fulfil our work duties.

So, how can you deal with having to be at work while grieving?

There isn’t a definitive answer, as there is no set timetable for grieving or manual on how we will react to others.

We spoke with Mrs. Jaclyn O’Hare-Tucker, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work. She provided us with the following steps to help us through the process.


The following are a few tips that may help.

1. Be open about how you feel. Dealing with grief doesn’t have to be a lonely journey. It helps to talk to a grief counsellor, therapist or psychiatrist for expert guidance.

2. Identify and avoid triggers that may cause a negative emotional response. These triggers may be music, photographs, food, birthdays, etc.

3. Do the things that make you happy. It may take a while to smile again. Try to focus on the things that bring joy and good energy.

4. Seek positive reinforcement. Get active. Join a social club, church or any other activity-based group.

5. Volunteering may be a great distraction from your worries.

6. Get lots of fresh air and sunshine. Sunshine is a great source of Vitamin D, which helps to reduce depression, stress and the risk of other diseases.

7. Don’t expect things to become normal ‘overnight’. Ease back into your routines. A healthy emotional you will make a better colleague.


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If your colleague is grieving, keep the following in mind:

1. There is no definitive time frame to grieve. It takes time and can be unpredictable. There will be good days and bad ones too.

2. Everyone grieves differently. Don’t judge. Be patient and most importantly, be mindful.

3. Allow the grieving person to take the lead, as to how they want to deal with the situation. This involves whether they are ready to talk about what happened or need more time to heal privately.

4. Be supportive. Don’t gossip about what has happened to your colleague.

5. Encourage your colleague to participate in a sports activity. Physical sports help to release endorphins (happy hormones). If they are up to it, invite the person out to an event that will help to lighten the path back to work.


This article is for information purposes only. If you or someone you know is struggling with loss, speak to a counsellor or a healthcare provider.

Sources: Harvard Business Review, HuffPost, Psycom, Healthline and Grief.com.