No matter what personal devastation may come in life, the world continues to turn. For so many of us that means returning to work after the loss of a loved one. As men, we also have an inherent trait for control of our environment, and the loss of a loved one was something we could not control.
The workplace, however, can represent a place where we might still establish our influence on responsibilities.
“When you come to work, leave your home life at the door.” We hear that all the time. Yet, nothing could be farther from the truth. Even before your loss, you went to work each day carrying all the motivations and demotivations taking place in your life. Now, however, you have the burden of painful emotions. Some of these you’ve never felt before and others you’ve never experienced at such intense levels.
The most important thing you must always do is be easy on yourself. You have a lot going on in your mind and in your heart. Expect to be more distracted and less productive for some time to come. If you’re feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, or unfocused, let your boss or teammates know that you need a little time before completing the task at hand. Don’t resume anything until you’re sure you can do it safely and with total competency in your own abilities.
As for well-wishers, be understanding with those at work. Many will be unsure how to interact on your return and may act awkward or uncomfortable. Those co-workers absolutely want to be supportive, yet are uncertain how to approach you. And, if they do, unsure of what to say. If they do say the wrong thing, just remember the words are not spoken in malice.
Some co-workers may say nothing at all. On top of general concerns about feeling awkward, they’re not comfortable with mortality in general. When they consider your loss, it mentally puts them right in your shoes and brings thoughts of what it would be like to lose someone of their own. If a co-worker had lost a loved one in the past, he or she might have some unresolved grief issues, and facing your loss may bring back incredible pains they’re not willing or prepared to deal with.
As you move forward through your grief, know that many at work will quickly get over your loss. In just a short period, it will seem that your loss is all but forgotten. It’s not your co-worker’s fault. They don’t go home with you at the end of the day. On another hand, it may well come from you putting on an act that you are doing well, right? You’re wearing a Grief Mask that disguises your pain.
It is well worth repeating that when returning to work after your loss of a loved one, you must be easy on yourself. Take your time and feel your pains no matter where they hit. Try to remember that, as men, we have many inherent instincts and traits residing within our very DNA that may unconsciously drive us to take certain actions. Sometimes we’re ready. Sometimes we’re not.
Look for Ron’s column every other Wednesday here on WSN-MO. R. Glenn Kelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org