Working Through Grief During a Time of Change and Loss

Suggestions for returning to work and finding a way forward during this time

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living through a time of unprecedented change and loss. The pandemic has affected every area of our lives. It has affected our families, social engagements, work routines, finances, political realities, and faith perspectives. All of us have lost our patterns, many of us have lost our work, and some of us have lost loved ones.

It’s a time for dying, and a time for living. Finding ways to navigate this paradox is our current task. We’re looking for ways to connect who we are with who we were and who we are becoming. We’re seeking to make our way in a world not of our choosing but one thrust upon us.

We are grieving. In our grief, we redefine ourselves. By drawing upon our faith, reflecting on past experiences, communicating with loved ones, and navigating work, we find the way forward. Together, we weave a narrative that makes sense within, and in spite of, the chaos.

We are also surrounded by grief. To ease the way, we seek to understand the grief of others. Sometimes it looks like what we expect grief to look like: sadness, anger, despair, exhaustion…. But, sometimes it looks different than we expect.* It looks like anxiety, control, depression, disengagement, distraction, manipulation, numbness….

Rather than ignoring, discounting, or leaving these emotions and behaviors unexplored*, we meet them with compassion, patience, and purpose. While some of our organizational cultures might discourage them, we take this window of time to nudge our relationships and work cultures toward them.

To nudge them toward compassion, we…

  • Ask colleagues and staff members about how the pandemic has affected them—personally and the others they care about
  • Think about what we need and what we can do to help
  • Take time to recognize and grapple with work-related losses (e.g., lay-offs, plant closings, limited resources, restricted services, etc.)

To nudge them toward patience, we…

  • Allow people who have lost loved ones to approach work in a way that helps them process their grief… through working less or more
  • Encourage people who have been working from home to transition back in ways that reduce extremes and allow for arrangements to be made
  • Are open to modified or new ways of working

To nudge them toward purpose, we…

  • Find the silver lining associated with work-related losses, looking for opportunities in the wings
  • Name what we found to be life-giving amidst sequestering, then claim it as essential and find ways to integrate them into a new work-life balance
  • Discuss ways our workplace can support what is life-giving, taking time to organize it into work processes, build it into products, and integrate it with our service

Finally, we claim leadership excellence… for and from ourselves. Practically, we commit to clear communication, support for the expression of emotion, closing rituals, and ways of rebuilding with moral purpose*. Spiritually, we seek guidance and truth. Reminding ourselves to draw from the eternal Light that is available through our hearts, we find and become light in the darkness.


*Hazen, M. A. 2008. “Grief and the Workplace.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 22(3) 78-86.

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...

Wisdom//

IT STILL HURTS LIKE THE FIRST DAY YOU LEFT US:

by Aysha Ahmed
Photo by Verne Ho on Unsplash
Community//

7 Steps to deal with grief

by Jessica Iachia
Shutterstock
Well-Being//

Healing After Loss and Honoring the Ones We Love

by Dr. Ken Druck

Sign up for the Thrive Global newsletter

Will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

Thrive Global
People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.