A bereaved mom just a month into this journey shared that she feels bad for not being able to handle grief better at work.
She wants to be professional, do her job well and shield unsuspecting coworkers and clients from her tears.
Her question was (slightly expanded):
Does anyone have practical suggestions for how to handle the unpredictable, overwhelming, undeniable waves of grief that come out of nowhere and demand attention regardless of how convenient it might be at that moment?
Here’s my reply (also expanded):
Don’t waste what limited energy you have in these early, especially hard days on beating yourself up! There’s no such thing as a “standard for grieving” even though there may be someone here or there that tries to impose one. Don’t expect too much from yourself.
In the early days, it took every ounce of energy I had to just make it through each day I couldn’t waste any blaming myself for what I might have “gotten wrong”.
Try to find a quiet spot (if possible) or at least a focal point in the room or rooms you work in most often so you can rest your eyes and focus your breathing/thoughts when the inconvenient waves sweep over you.
Often just making a plan is all a heart needs to regain control. As you shift your mental and physical focus, your body will tend to follow.
The little 5-4-3-2-1 centering exercise for anxiety works for nearly any strong emotion.
I wore a necklace or carried a memento in my pocket every day for years. I still do that when I know I’m going into a stressful place. I could reach in (or up), take hold of that physical object and it helped me breathe, slow my heart rate and lasso my emotional response.
Finally, if a tear falls, let it.
Don’t apologize or make it bigger (you can briefly mention you’ve lost a child-if appropriate and the person doesn’t know), wipe it off (or not) and go on.
I’ve found most people follow my lead.
I am so very sorry you even have to figure this out.
It’s not something any parent should have to do.
However you manage is really OK.
I promise. ❤
***If YOU have hints, tips, wisdom or encouragement for other bereaved parents who work AND grieve, please comment! It is such a blessing to hear that another heart has fought this particular battle and is reaching out. ***
3 thoughts on “Grieving While Working: Handling Grief Waves At Inconvenient Moments”
I had the opportunity and was invited to work on a project team for my company six weeks prior to losing my 20 yo son. (a deer approached his lane to which he hit and then crossed into the oncoming lane and had a head on collision…he passed 10 hours later. Wearing a seat belt, not speeding, no drugs or alcohol…strong Christian and lived daily for the Lord. 18 months later and I am still reminding myself this really happened and still asking why). The project lead to a work from home opportunity and for that I am grateful. I do go into the office from time to time and see and reconnect with her friends and coworkers but it is hard being in the office. I feel like a moving grieving target. Fake my way through the day, put on that smile so others think you are doing ok and they don’t feel uncomfortable coming up to say hi. I have the best work family who are compassionate. But working from home allows me the privacy needed for those instant bursts of emotion and tears. And after 18 months from Alec’s Heaven date, I still have those moments and they hit me out of nowhere. I’m in meetings a lot throughout my day and the mute button is my friend during those moments. I don’t know when or if I will have to go back into the office permanently but I hope I don’t. It is truly a blessing to be at home. Thank you Melanie for your blogs. You are a world of encouragement and understanding. Sincerely, Ange
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I had to postpone an operation I had been due to have on the day of my son’s funeral therefore I didn’t go back to eork until six months later. Within a few weeks, I knew I wasn’t coping well and came off work again, evenually going back a few months later.
I have a necklace that my son gave me for Mother’s Day just a few months before his accident. I find that I use it like a “worry stone”. When I have “a moment” I find comfort in holding it. I also have one of his favorite beanie babies on my desk at work. I am honest with my coworkers and they get it when I need to get up and walk away. It’s been almost 3 years and I still need these things.