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Supporting Team Members Returning to Work after a Bereavement

Grief Encounter Trauma Specialist and Training Manager, Stacey Hart, offers her advice on how employers can offer support to team members returning to the workplace after a bereavement.

Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, affecting us all differently. Returning to work after the death of a family member can for some seem an impossible task. For others, it can be a lifeline to gaining some control and focus. The transition will be non-identical for each person, and an organisations response should not be a ‘one size fits all’. 

  •  Professional Support

Ensure counselling is available for your team members. Awareness of professional support and the ability to accept help can be very important to your staff. Offer helpline numbers and information on organisations that can offer advice. 

  •  Awareness

Be sure all team members and managers are aware of the bereavement and details before that staff member returns. Sometimes the circumstances around a death can be personal, so it would be advisable to check with the staff member what they are comfortable sharing with their colleagues. 

  • Empathy 

Remind your team member that ‘It’s okay not to be okay’. Grief and mourning do not have a set time limit; be flexible with their workload, and shift patterns. Allow for a slow return to work with reduced hours to begin with, and let them know you understand that grief isn’t over in a week, or month or even a year. 

  • Keep Talking

It is always better to acknowledge the death rather than ignore it; encourage colleagues to talk with the staff member, and not shut down any conversations. Have regular catch ups with your employee to check in and see how they are coping.

  • Develop Strategies 

Concentration can be impossible when you are grieving. It might be useful to help your co-worker by proof reading or just checking in if they need any support with their workload. Offer regular breaks in the day and access to a safe space for time out if needed.

  • Sensitivity 

Be sensitive to milestones for the bereaved including date of death, birthdays and anniversaries, and any time off that may go hand in hand with this. 

 

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Tim Skelter, Corporate Affairs, Quilter