In recent days my friend’s daughter died and the complications and feelings of devastation that arose during this time have resulted in this post. I was surprised that I was affected so deeply. Even though my experience was dwarfed by the pain of the family, it affects me still.
Their feelings have overwhelmed them. Their loss, like a pebble dropped in a pond, has pushed out and affected people further afield – friends and colleagues.Their ability to manage work has been severely compromised and so the roller-coaster of grief rolls on taking many along with it.
In life there is death, we all die, but it is a taboo subject for many in the Western world. We have sanitised death and distanced ourselves from it. The rituals of acceptance and farewell are not best managed here. We have become far more concerned with staying young and living longer. (A subject for another blog I think)
Death is a word that seems to disable us. We do not know how to deal with the subject, whether we are the grieving person or a friend or colleague. We are afraid of getting it wrong and of becoming tongue-tied. Embarrassment diminishes our ability to come alongside someone, and often the bereaved feel alone, isolated and unsure of the rules.
What are the rules for the bereaved, what is the right way to do this horrendous journey?
Every person’s journey through grief is unique – there are no rules, there is only your way. It is a difficult and complicated time, full of if only’s and why didn’t I’s? What is really important is to allow time to remember, to speak, to reminisce. It is also vital that you don’t compare your process to others in the speed with which you manage or even how you don’t. It is necessary to recognise that you will need to allow yourself some space and that may mean time off work. Or perhaps a lighter load at work as some prefer to keep busy.
How about employers, what are their responsibilities?
I have wondered again at what procedures are in place to support those in the workplace. All employees are entitled to ‘time off for dependants’, but is there enough in the provision of compassionate leave within working contracts and is it accessible? It is best practice to provide it, as this article from ACAS states, but does it go far enough?
Stress is a by-product of many difficult situations and is the most common cause of absenteeism and lost revenue within the workplace .
Ask yourself what would happen if someone within the corporate environment suddenly died? What if someone had a still-birth or lost someone prematurely? Or there was a suicide and the pressure of work was identified as a contributing factor? How would the tsunami of emotion be managed within the organisation?
In order to maintain a healthy workforce it is necessary to ensure that all areas of mental and physical health are supported.
Employees dealing with bereavement will need to be invested in in the short-term to prevent difficulties arising in the long-term. This means modelling self-care throughout the organisation, from the top down. Best practice ensures that mental health is supported and that space is readily available for this process within the corporate environment. In today’s businesses the need for support should not be shame-based, neither should it be seen as weakness. Rather it should be viewed as the best way to ensure full and proper provision for valued people.
A man’s dying is more the survivors’ affair than his own. ~Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain