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  • Kay Gravesande

Grieving at Work - How to Function When You Can Barely Focus

An unfortunate part of getting older is the realization that loss comes with the territory. Whether you've lost a life, something material (like your house) due to a catastrophe, or are facing a huge let down... like all of my brides who aren't saying "I Do" during this COVID-19 pandemic... there's pain and anguish associated with the experience.


We can't predict when a natural disaster or a major accident will strike our home and cause destruction. Although I hope the day never manifests, should disaster render its fist through a roaring fire or a totaled car, it's okay to feel upset, angry, confused and hurt. Although I am not sponsored Geico, this is a great time to mention the value of car insurance, renter's insurance and homeowners insurance. As a Geico customer, I've embedded the link for your review because they've always treated me well. If the unexpected were to happen, you could call on your insurance for assistance to help you through it and although it may not replace what you lost, it could provide a little peace of mind.


It may seem simple to accept that people don't live forever, or things happen in casual conversation, yet it's a painful thought to face when the grime reaper is spying through the bushes at your relatives at your next family reunion. When you lose someone you care about, your first feelings could be shock and sadness, anger, or depending on the situation, even depression and heartbreak. Whatever you feel, its valid. No one can tell you you're feelings are inadequate or you're grieving wrong. We all cope with loss differently - always remember you are entitled to process your loss however you see fit for as long as you need.

Most companies have a bereavement policy, which typically allows for three to five consecutive days of paid time off for employees who suffer the loss of a covered family member. Standard covered family members usually include immediate family, and extend members up to in-laws, step-children, step-parents and grandparents. Rarely do policies include paid time off for the passing of aunts, cousins, or friends, but I recommend reading your specific company policy if this is something applicable to you.

Assuming your granted three to five days of paid leave, you may be stuck in a scenario when you need to work through part (or most) of your grieving period. In most cases, I see employees wait to use their bereavement days until the burial service is scheduled, especially if travel is involved. In this example, this means the employee is actually working through the initial grief phase when the loss is first heard and being processed.


COVID-19 has brought about a ton of changes to our daily norms - one of which is the halt of gatherings. Which means all of my brides with weddings dates between March and June were forced to reschedule their big day (assuming they were having a large event with more than ten people).

When I was a bride, I wanted everything to be perfect, from the flowers to the music to the weather... which in hindsight is pretty dumb considering I wasn't controlling any of those elements. I can only imagine how deep my heart would have sank if my reception vendor was on the other line of the phone telling me I had no choice but to reschedule something I had been planning for over a year. As I write this, I can feel a lump forming in my throat from disappointment.

Maybe you've lost your wedding, a job, failed the bar exam, a business grant, a scholarship, entry into school, or didn't get that role you auditioned for. Whatever it is, you can grieve the loss. You did your best, shared your excitement, let your heart race and wiped the sweat off your palms just before you saw the result and it hurts like hell.

As difficult as this time is for you, there are a few things you can do to make it a little smoother while you power through your workweek.

1. Communicate - If you don't have an open line of communication with your team and/or your Supervisor, this is a great time to start. Let your close counterparts know what is going on so that they understand why your work may be temporarily affected. In times of grief, you are more likely to become distracted, which could cause slower response times, and explain why you may need a flexible schedule.

2. Listen to your Emotions - Studies show one of the most success ways to get through grief is to acknowledge it. Do not ignore your emotions... instead, face them. If you're powering through your workday, and suddenly feel a tear coming on in the middle of a meeting, step out and let it flow. After you've gathered yourself, return to the meeting and pick up where you left off. No one is judging you. Although you may feel like no one understands, you are not the first person to feel tragedy, so trust that there are many who empathize with you during this difficult time.

3. Set Boundaries - Learn what is okay and not okay to talk about. Your colleagues will comfort and console you based on what you show (or tell) them is acceptable. Once you set very clear boundaries on what you will and will not discuss in regards to your personal life and the situation, it will clear tension and eliminate potentially awkward situations. Some may even offer their assistance and resources to help you with counseling or financial tools to get on your feet faster.

Loss sucks, no matter how you spin it, its tough to say goodbye to someone or something special. As a child, I was naive to the heartache my parents endured as I sat confused, dressed in all black on the second pue at my great grandmother's funeral. Adulthood has shown me that learning to cope with the unexpected is a skill I must master in order to properly function and navigate through life. I predict a fond relationship between Grief and I, because things are will always go off course, and I have to be prepared for that. As our bond grows stronger, I won't fear the inevitable, but I'm not looking forward to getting to know that a**hole.

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