Handling Grief at the Workplace – What can be done?

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Laura Lillo Pulido

Laura Lillo Pulido

Forensic health psychologist

Sadly, many of us have suffered significant losses over the past few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only have we had to adapt to telework, to work and family conciliation, to the health and economic crisis, but it is also possible that we have had to go through a grieving process or that we know someone close to us who has had to do it .

From the work environment, measures and decisions can also be taken that make this journey somewhat more bearable, thus avoiding complications that end in complex disorders, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mourning phases

Grief is a normal reaction to the loss of someone important to us, and it is a process that takes time. However, sometimes it becomes difficult to overcome grief and due to the reactions of this process, such as sadness, anxiety or frustration, we can end up neglecting our day-to-day activities. In this situation it is important that we do not neglect ourselves.

Which are the grief phases? It is important to note that each grieving process is unique, and as mentioned in the Center for Integral Psychology, grief does not follow a linear or rigid path.

  • Denial: it can help so that the mood change is not so abrupt. It may or may not be explicit, in the sense that a denial of the significance of the loss or its final character may be given rather than the denial of the loss itself.
  • Anger: feelings of deep anger, rage and frustration appear. Is it possible to attribute the blame and guilt to some other factor?
  • Negotiation: this phase is not always present; in it you fantasize about controlling the situation or reversing the death process.
  • Depression: the loss begins to be assumed and therefore a feeling of deep emptiness appears.
  • Acceptance: it is a phase to which we arrive tired, in which we perceive a certain calm and we understand the reality of life and death.

Covid Grief: the aftermath of the pandemic

In the Virtual Congress of Professional Development in the health environment, the psychiatrist María Dolores Sánchez García highlighted the differences between common grief and Covid-19 grief. After this pandemic, the grieving processes have changed by force: our farewell rituals have not been carried out, the support has diminished and changed in the closeness and we have had to deal with a lot of uncertainty. Now, the grieving processes are more complex and prolonged. It is more likely that we end up needing psychological support.

Grief can potentially go beyond the psychological sphere, having serious physical and social consequences; more than ⅓ out of 7,000 executives in a leadership program had their jobs affected by an unresolved grief process. In addition, according to one study, the complications of grief due to the pandemic will cost organizations in the United States more than $75 billion per year.

"The complications of grief due to the pandemic will cost organizations in the United States more than $75 billion per year."

Are grief and depression the same?

Although grief and depression have similarities and can coexist, they are not the same. In both cases you can suffer insomnia, very deep sadness, weight loss or poor appetite. Grief tends to come in waves and decrease over time, while depression tends to be more resistant and persistent. They comment more on these differences in the Very Well Mind newspaper.

Our Wemby psychologists can help improve your wellbeing when considering both scenarios.

Going back to work after your loss

After suffering the loss of a loved one, considering going back to routine can be potentially overwhelming. Doing it in a certain way, respecting our times and relying on trusted figures, can help us make the process not so complicated. In this article by RyAPsicologos, they provide valuable insights:

  • Ask for help and be patient with yourself. Focusing on certain tasks is going to take a little longer. Our usual pace is going to be difficult to hit at first, we are going to lose focus more often, and our deliverables are likely to need a bit more reviews.
  • Create a to-do list and prioritize. In this Wemby article, we talk more about prioritizing between urgent and important.
  • Address the issue as naturally as possible. Normalizing the loss and talking about it is part of the grieving process, as it helps in the acceptance phase. However, it may not be optimal to discuss the issue at the workplace, or you may just not feel like talking about it just yet yourself. If this is the case, seek help from someone who can share with others and elaborate on the situation on your behalf.provide valuable insights:

How can I help my organization?

If you are the boss or manager of someone who has just suffered a loss, this is the time to be empathetic. Being a good leader implies going beyond merely work matters at times: perhaps it is time to ask questions, to respect the spaces and times of your employee and to understand that work at this time is not the most important thing. In this article from the journal Fast Company, more insights on this are shared.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, in this moment in history, many people have suffered or are suffering from a grief process. Contacting professionals can provide you with a personalised and on-time solution, before reaching more complex issues such as depression or PTSD. Psychologists can give you adequate tools and they can also help you find the balance between your personal life and your work before it is too late. 

At Wemby we make an initial assessment to pair you with the right psychologist for each user and develop a tailored plan that suits your needs. We are here to help and live by our mission of affordable and accessible psychological support for everyone in the world.

About the Author

Hi! I’m Laura Lillo, a forensic and clinical psychologist. I  strongly believe that psychology services should be accessible to all.  I’ve worked in prisons and with kids with risks of social exclusion. This has taught me the importance of constant learning and improvement as a person and as a therapist.

If I’m not cooking, drawing or singing, the most likely scenario is that I’m playing board games. Right now, I’m busy learning and writing content for Wemby, an online psychology platform. During my weekends I’m Game Master in Exit Madrid, a escape rooms company.

Wemby provides online therapy and wellbeing services delivered by experienced psychologists. Our team is here to help you start building your balance and emotional wellbeing today.

Download the app, complete a matching questionnaire and get paired with a therapist with the best licensed professional to match your needs.

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