Navigating grief: a guide for individuals and organizations

29 February 2024

November ushers in a period of remembrance, where cultures worldwide honour and commemorate loved ones who have passed. From All Saints' Day to All Souls' Day, alongside traditions like Dia de los Muertos, these observances serve to highlight the significance of grieving and processing loss.

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While navigating grief can be challenging, it is a process we all face. Unfortunately, discussing loss remains a sensitive topic in society, often leaving us unsure how to react or offer support when encountering loss ourselves or witnessing it in others. This blog aims to demystify grief, exploring its nature and offering guidance on how we, as individuals and organizations, can effectively support those experiencing it, both within and outside the workplace.

What is grief?

Grief is the emotional response to losing someone or something important, with whom we had a strong emotional connection. While often associated with the death of a loved one, grief can take many forms. This includes the loss of a job, a relationship, a cherished dream, or even a physical decline in health.

Losing someone or something significant naturally triggers a range of emotions. Common feelings include sadness, anger, denial, guilt, loneliness, confusion, and sometimes even relief. These emotions can significantly impact our physical and emotional wellbeing, causing fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, and stomach issues. The grieving process is unique to each individual, with no set timeline or prescribed method.

Navigating grief at work

Bereavement, the processing of emotions after loss, doesn't follow a convenient schedule. As a result, grief can significantly impact an employee's performance and wellbeing. Both colleagues and the organization play crucial roles in supporting their fellow employees during this process.

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Here's how you can help as a colleague:

  • Listen actively: offer a listening ear without judgment or advice. Allow them to share their feelings and memories freely.
  • Offer help: ask how you can assist with work tasks or everyday activities, easing their burden and granting them space to grieve.
  • Show empathy: acknowledge their situation through simple gestures like a card, a hug, or simply being present and listening.
  • Respect boundaries: understand that not everyone wants to discuss their grief at work. Give them the space they need.
  • Offer long-term support: regularly check in on them, even after the initial shock wears off, recognizing that grief is a lengthy process.

As an organization, consider:

  • Implementing a bereavement policy: this should outline support measures, including flexible leave arrangements, access to counselling, and other resources. This policy can help break the stigma surrounding grief and provide guidance in its wake.
  • Raising awareness: educate managers and employees about grief and how to support colleagues experiencing loss.
  • Offering workplace flexibility: this could involve adjustments to working hours or the option to work remotely, providing flexibility for grieving employees.
  • Creating a supportive culture: foster open communication and empathy, promoting a sense of understanding and mutual support. This can be achieved by leading by example and actively promoting these values.
  • Providing external support: offer information about resources like therapists, grief groups, and other professional help.

By addressing grief appropriately and offering meaningful support, organizations can help their employees navigate loss and create a more supportive workplace environment. We at BloomUp are happy to offer guidance and support through this process – for both individuals and organizations.