5 Ways to Maintain Your Position in the Workplace While Coping with the Loss of a Loved One

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Leslie A Strazzullo923
Data-Driven Global B2B Marketing Professional

It’s something that you never think about until it happens to you. In February of this year, I lost my husband. He wasn’t sick. It just happened, a heart attack at 55 years old. From that moment on, my life was no longer the same.

“Grief is like the ocean. It comes in waves, sometimes calm and sometimes overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” —Vicki Harrison.

It is a sink-or-swim moment. As Vicki Harrison states, you will need to swim. In many cases, you will assume responsibility for everything and everyone in your care. This in itself can be overwhelming. However, if you are the breadwinner or a contributor to your family’s finances, maintaining your job will be critical in maintaining a smooth transition during a challenging period.

The loss of a loved one is one of the most challenging experiences you will face in life. Here are five ways to manage loss while you maintain your job.

Communicate regularly with your manager. 

I recommend you communicate the news to your manager and HR at the earliest convenient time. It’s not an easy call, but you must do it. Do not skip out without communicating what is going on, both personally and professionally. Maintain regular touchpoints with your boss. I was lucky to work for a compassionate leader who supported me every step of the way. As things unfolded, I kept my manager up to date on how I was doing and how things were progressing. I also updated her on time-sensitive projects that would need attention in my absence. The website Indeed has some great advice on how to communicate about a death in your family

Be open to help. 

Maintaining some order will be vital as you heal. On the job, this means delegating or asking for help. Take a quick inventory of your projects, and flag those that need immediate attention. In my case, I got lots of support from both my manager and coworkers. While you might feel guilty about not completing a project, don’t. It will be far worse if work piles up or deadlines are missed in your absence. If you are reluctant to ask for support, here are four tips to help you ask for help.

Seek help. 

Understandably, keeping your job might be a priority and a financial necessity. Know that you will most certainly jeopardize your job if you do not get help. They say the death of a loved one can be one of the most traumatic experiences in life. I can tell you from my own experience that this statement is accurate, and while I am healing and making progress, I wouldn’t be where I am today without professional help and support from family and friends. Your family and friends will be there for you daily or regularly, while professional help will provide counseling to manage your grief. Friends and family will bring you food, take you out, and check in on you while your therapist will help you deal with your new situation, uncertainty, sadness, and depression. If you need help finding a therapist, here’s a resource on how to find a therapist

Ease back into work and take care of business. 

I went back to work after taking about two weeks off. But, looking back, this was not enough time. When I returned, my head just wasn’t in it. I was having difficulties focusing and experienced terrible headaches and tiredness. I should have eased back in by working half days or a shortened week until I could truly concentrate on my work. Many companies have a bereavement policy, or in the absence of a policy, companies might allow you to ease back to work over time. If this flexible solution is available to you, take advantage of it. To learn more about bereavement leave and how it works, read BetterUp’s bereavement leave: how to prepare for the unexpected.

Take care of yourself. 

This is critical. You will not do yourself and anyone depending on you any good if you do not care for yourself. For example, you will do better on the job if you get enough sleep, eat right, exercise, and socialize with family and friends. You will also feel better about yourself, which will help with the healing process and your outlook on life. Here are five self-care practices for every area of your life.

Dealing with the emotions of losing a loved one and maintaining your job will be one of the toughest challenges you will ever face. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to address your needs first so you can efficiently manage your professional and personal responsibilities. 

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Leslie works internationally, bringing her brand and marketing leadership expertise to facilitate business growth. With an early career in corporate communications, Leslie broadened her business background in marketing after completing an MBA in the USA and Italy. She is an American who has lived in Europe for over 15 years leading global and EMEA initiatives.  

What's your no. 1 piece of advice for maintaining a job while going through grief? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!