Supporting Employees Who Are Grieving

07/15/2020

With so many people affected in one way or another by the COVID-19 pandemic, chances are you or someone you know may be grieving from a loss. Here’s how you can support them at work.

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WITH THE DEATH TOLL FROM THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC MOUNTING DAILY, CHANCES ARE THAT SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS LOST A FRIEND OR A LOVED ONE FROM THE DISEASE.AND IF IT'S AN EMPLOYEE OR CO-WORKER WHO'S GRIEVING, THAT GRIEF MORE THAN LIKELY WILL IMPACT THE WORKPLACE.YOU'RE WATCHING THE LOCAL NEWS NETWORK, BROUGHT TO YOU BY TARGET RENTAL, SERVING THE FOUR CORNERS FOR MORE THAN 40 YEARS. I'M WENDY GRAHAM SETTLE.THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC HAS TOUCHED US ALL IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, AND A COLLECTIVE GRIEF HAS BECOME PART OF OUR REALITY IN OUR LIVES AND THE WORKPLACE.CO-WORKERS OR EMPLOYEES MAY HAVE LOST A FRIEND OR LOVED ONE IN ANOTHER COMMUNITY FROM THE PANDEMIC.EVEN THE LOSS OF OUR FAMILIAR WAY OF LIFE MAY BE TRIGGERING PAST EXPERIENCES WITH GRIEF THAT CAUSES A CO-WORKER OR EMPLYOOYEE TO SUDDENLY START CRYING OR  BURST IN ANGER.JUDY AUSTIN, A CERTIFIED GRIEF COUNSELOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE GRIEF CENTER OF SOUTHWEST COLORADO, WILL OFFER EMPLOYERS AND CO-WORKERS STRATEGIES TO HANDLE GRIEF IN THE WORKPLACE DURING A DURANGO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE VIRTUAL LUNCH & LEARN SESSION ON WEDNESDAY, JULY 22ND.THE PRESENTATION BEGINS AT NOON.IT'S FREE, BUT YOU MUST REGISTER WITH THE DURANGO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE FOR YOUR LOG IN INFORMATION.IN ADDITION TO HER WORK WITH INDIVIDUALS, AUSTIN COUNSELS ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE COPING WITH GRIEF IN THE WORKPLACE TO HELP CO-WORKERS AND EMPLOYERS UNDERSTAND WHAT GRIEF IS, HOW IT PROGRESSES, AND HOW THEY CAN SUPPORT INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE GRIEVING.GRIEF, SHE SAYS, ISN'T AN ILLNESS FROM WHICH SOMEONE RECOVERS.RATHER, IT'S A PROCESS OF LEARNING TO ADAPT TO A ROLLER-COASTER RIDE OF EMOTIONS.WITH GRIEF, PARTLY, WE'VE BEEN EDUCATED ABOUT GRIEF OFTEN IN THE FIVE STAGES, THAT THERE'S A LINEAR PROGRESSION. SO THERE'S AN EXPECTATION THAT AT SOME POINT THIS WILL SORT OF RUN ITS COURSE AND BE BETTER. AND WHAT WE ACTUALLY KNOW ABOUT GRIEF IS THAT PEOPLE WILL OSCILLATE BETWEEN PROCESSING THEIR GRIEF AND BEING ABLE TO FOCUS AND HAVE FUTURE PLANNING FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, A PERIOD OF YEARS. WHEN EMPLOYEES SUFFER A LOSS, AUSTIN RECOMMENDS THAT EMPLOYERS REACH OUT AND PREPARE A PLAN FOR THE EMPLOYEE TO EASE BACK INTO WORK.UNDERSTAND THAT GRIEF TAKES A PHYSICAL AND COGNITIVE TOLL ON INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE GRIEVING, AND DISCUSS WHETHER AN EMPLOYEE NEEDS A SHORTENED WORK DAY OR WORK WEEK FOR A WHILE.ASK THEM HOW MUCH THEY WANT THEIR CO-WORKERS TO KNOW.DO YOU WANT ME TO TELL PEOPLE THAT THIS HAS HAPPENED? AND IF SO, WHAT DETAILS DO YOU WANT THEM TO KNOW WHEN YOU RETURN? DO YOU PREFER TO FOCUS ON WORK OR DO YOU PREFER PEOPLE TO ASK YOU HOW YOU'RE DOING? AND IS THERE A PLACE THAT WE CAN SET UP THAT WHEN YOU NEED TO, YOU CAN LEAVE, YOU CAN, YOU KNOW, TAKE THE WALK IF YOU NEED TO, OR GO TO A PRIVATE SPACE, AND THAT'S BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN A NUMBER OF THE BUSINESSES I'VE WORKED WITH, AND THAT WAY, IT DOESN'T HAVE TO COME TO, OH, I NOTICED SO-AND-SO'S HAVING A HARD TIME. I'M GOING TO GO GIVE HER PERMISSION TO LEAVE, BUT JUST TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF, YOU KNOW, WHEN THAT PERSON NEEDS TO, THEY WILL FIND THEIR SPACE. SAME THING I RECOMMENDED IN SCHOOLS FOR KIDS: TO HAVE A PLACE THEY CAN GO. BE PREPARED FOR CONSTANT FLUCTUATIONS; WHAT MAY SEEM TO BE WORKING FOR AN EMPLOYEE ONE DAY MAY NOT WORK THE NEXT.DO REACH OUT AND ASK HOW YOU CAN PROVIDE SUPPORT NOW, AND DON'T BE AFRAID OF ELICITING TEARS.ONE OF THE THINGS I OFTEN TELL SUPERVISORS AND COWORKERS IS DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE TEARS. OFTEN, AS BEREAVED INDIVIDUALS, WE KNOW THIS WILL COME, THIS WILL ALSO GO, I JUST, THIS IS THE WAY IT IS. I CAN REMEMBER ONE TIME, YOU KNOW, LOOKING AT SOMEONE AND SAYING, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ME. THIS JUST HAPPENS. AND YOU KNOW, NOT BEING AFRAID OF THE TEARS, NOT FEELING LIKE YOU HAVE TO FIX IT IN SOME WAY OR STOP THEM, IS, IS IMPORTANT. I THINK FOR EVERYONE IN THE, IN THE ENVIRONMENT TO KNOW.FINALLY, BE PATIENT.GRIEVING IS A PROCESS THAT CAN TAKE SOMEONE THREE YEARS OR MORE UNTIL THEY'VE INCORPORATED THE LOSS AS A NORMAL PART OF THEIR EXISTENCE AND ARE ABLE TO MOVE AHEAD.IF YOU'D LIKE TO KNOW MORE ABOUT AUSTIN'S WORK AND THE GRIEF CENTER OF SOUTHWEST COLORADO, VISIT GRIEF CENTER S W C O DOT ORG.TO REGISTER FOR AUSTIN'S LUNCH AND LEARN PRESENTATION, VISIT DURANGO BUSINESS DOT ORG.THANKS FOR WATCHING THIS EDITION OF THE LOCAL NEWS NETWORK. I'M WENDY GRAHAM SETTLE.

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