Grief and Your Job: How to go Back to Work and be Okay

Grief is the most common, uncommon thing we all go though.

My mother passed away 5 months ago. It was sudden and unexpected. As she was the matriarch of our family – we all lost some internal compass and composure when she died. Since then, we find ourselves all trying to figure out what just happened and what to do now.

When tragedy strikes in your personal life, work isn’t often the first place you want to be. Time with family or in a quiet, dark corner somewhere is generally the only place you want to go.

For some of us, we have the opportunity to take time off of work.Whether it’s formal bereavement leave, vacation or sick time, or informal blessing from bosses – there are a few of us who get a little leave. For many of us, if the work is hourly or deadlines are looming, taking time off is virtually impossible.

Going Back

You may find returning to work challenging. Break or no break, your life has changed. Yet – you still have to put that smile on and show up to work. There are responsibilities of your role and they must get done.

First of all, know that you are not alone. There is not a single person who will not someday encounter something tragic, or has not already. So take solace in knowing that part of the human condition is suffering.

Next, go easy on yourself. Studies show that personal tragedy can cause memory loss and decrease productivity. Your brain literally slows down and work production normally falters a bit after the loss of a loved one.

Did you just breeze by that important deadline? It happens. This is completely normal.

We really should do more in our work system to educate those around us about grief. For now, it’s important that you ask for help and develop an ally. For those days where you are feeling a little forgetful, or shying away from conflict – let your ally help you.

You Can Make it Manageable

Break down tasks into easy to manage steps. Focus on the grain of sand each day. It’s good to be busy, it keeps your mind occupied. Sometimes it’s challenging to think big-picture when you’re reeling from something huge.  You may find your attention span to be quite short. Create a list, check things off, feel productive.

Here’s the other thing: you may forget things. It’s a side-effect of trauma and for many of us, it’s impossible to avoid. For me, I started about 3 different calendars (not including my phone calendar and notepad) and started a bullet journal. Honestly, they’re all about half-accurate and I’m working on it.

Most forgetfulness should lessen over time, so exercise kindness towards yourself and create some workarounds.

So with that thought, give yourself some structure. A huge piece of your life just changed. That means that rituals, traditions, and some portion of consistency likely exited your life as well. There is room for consistency, even small things.

It’s Good to Decompress

Outside of work, you may find you’re more tired than normal. Develop a downtime ritual.

For me, I needed a break from reality; an escape from doing things I didn’t want to do and saying goodbye to someone to whom I didn’t want to say goodbye.

My break from reality involves binge listening the Harry Potter series (like you need a link). I listen in the car, at the grocery store, when I’m preparing meals, folding laundry …  it’s non-traumatic and interesting escapism. As a writer, it’s helped me to want to write again. As a person walking through grief, these Harry Potter times provide respite from the work of letting someone go.

Grief is Okay

Do allow yourself to dive into the “sad” every now and again. It’s alright to want to crawl under the covers and hide from the world. Do that. Provide space in your life to embrace grief. What a wonderful gift to have had someone so great in your life that their presence is only to be missed significantly.

  • As a side note: I want to acknowledge that all grievers process differently. I hope you accept my writings as part of a process and desire to help others. If you’d appreciate a recommendation, this book has really helped me: Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman.

Thanks for taking the time to read, I hope this article helps you or someone you care about. If you’d like to know more about me or what I do, please check out my About Me page on Comment, message me, subscribe, and follow.


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  • Reply
    Charlotte Foret
    July 25, 2017 at 1:58 pm

    I loved reading this. Your mother will forever be missed and loved. I love you sweet lady. Take care.

    • Reply
      July 26, 2017 at 4:07 am

      Thank you so much, Charlotte. I know you were very special to her too. Sending you love <3

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