Dealing with Grief in the workplace – can we do better?
Above the waterline…
People think you are doing fine.
People think you are doing well.
People think you are coping.
People think you are keeping it together.
Below the waterline…
You feel so empty.
You are so lonely.
You just want to curl up in the corner and cry.
You’re struggling to concentrate on anything.
You feel lost and uncertain of what tomorrow will bring.
You feel so awkward around people.
Grief – It’s harder than nearly anything we experience in our life and in most cases we are doing it in isolation and trying to cover up how we really feel.
I truly believe people want to help and support each other through challenging times and in 2020 could it be more challenging? Bushfires to start the year in Australia and now this horrendous pandemic. We have heard repeatedly –“ we are all in this together”. When it comes to grieving for a loved one – unfortunately, we are not all in it together. This is a challenging time that people for whatever reason tend to be left alone. This is extraordinarily difficult, even for the strongest of us. It’s a time we will all go through and I can only imagine how trying it must be going through during Covid. As a community, workplace, family or friend of someone who is grieving – I believe we can do better.
In July 2019, my wife of over 30 years died after a long horrible illness – Multiple System Atrophy – a horrible Neuro Degenerative Disease. Although we knew it was coming the end was incredibly hard.
I had been working as the CEO of a software company for a couple of years – a start up which in late 2019 had approximately 50 employees and offices in Melbourne and Los Angeles. It was a busy life. As Bernadette (my wife) neared the end I noticed how difficult people found it to talk to me about her illness. When she died it was very awkward at work – so much so that I published an article on Linkedin titled ‘Dealing with Grief in the Workplace’. I was simply overwhelmed by the response I received and the emails to me were extraordinary – people generally relaying their experiences from all around the world. Some stories, although years after the fact, were still so painful, others relaying some truly lovely stories as to how their communities rallied behind them – but generally, these were in the vast minority.
I resigned in mid October with a view that I needed space and time to grieve but also to investigate how companies can initiate a better way of planning for a time when someone in their community is suffering, someone whose life has been turned upside down, someone who now as a result of an occurrence in their life is living with a new normal.
In many workplaces people who are grieving generally feel isolated and this is predominantly because the community hasn’t really thought about this life challenge.
Make no mistake there are very few challenges in life as big as losing a loved one. Yet most workplaces and the people within them feel awkward when interacting with someone who is grieving because there has never really been a conversation about it.
what we will do
Has someone in your workplace suffered a bereavement?
Its more than likely they have and if they haven’t – they will.
How did the business, managers, colleagues interact with the grieving person?
Is it something you have thought about?
Research suggests the vast majority of grieving employees experiences are less than satisfactory.
People feel isolated.
We have designed a tailored workshop to enable the facilitation of these discussions.
Its not by design its just the conversations and the thinking hasnt been done.
If you wish to know more please get in touch.
get in touch
Share your story or host a business workshop.
Five hours after Bernadette died in July 2019, I received a call from an Aboriginal Elder in South West Victoria, offering our family to have Bernadette buried in the old cemetary out at what was once Framlingham Mission. Her selfless work in bringing a voice, through books, to Aboriginal people in this land – had been something so special. As a family we will always be grateful for this generous burial offer.
This initiative has been created off the back of conversations with many people but would like to acknowledge Peter Seidel, a good friend, who knows plenty about grief, who after reading my Linkedin post last year told me I had to pursue this incredibly important body of work. Also to Rachael Powell – another great friend who encouraged and listened to me and pointed me in the right direction, when I needed it most.
Also during the last few years and post Bernadette dying, my brother Reece, my sister Cathy – always there for me, anytime day or night, our children a constant source of inspiration and some amazing friends Ursula, Jeremy, Trudy, Ian , Nick , Chris V, Cheryl and Jane , to name but a few – how lucky one can be to have such a great community around you when you need it the most.
Finally, Annie – thank you for turning the light back on.