Working After A Death In Family

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about how death of someone can affect your life:

A few weeks ago my grandmother passed away. Since then, I find that nothing means anything to me. For starters, I have been waking up from a half an hour to 45 minutes later than before and as a result, I feel rushed and I feel as though I’m not at my best. I’m afraid to tell anyone because I don’t want to appear as though I can’t handle anything (I did receive offers of talk if I needed to). How do I deal with this?

Signed, Sad

Dear Sad:

I hope you will take advantage of opportunities to speak with anyone who can assist you during this difficult time. If you have a professional counselor, pastor, trusted mentor or friend, it might be an effective way for you to be guided. Probably someone who is a professional would be most effective because that person may have techniques or tips that have proven to be helpful. I would also suggest that you consider speaking about it to others in the family, if you think they are kindred spirits in this matter. Consider how sad your grandmother’s adult children, including your mother or father, must feel. Or, think of how her siblings feel if they are living. If her spouse is living, he will be suffering. And, she may have had close friends who have no one to talk to about it. Often when a close friend passes away, it’s like losing a brother or sister, but no one thinks to reach out to that person. You might find out if such a person was in your grandmother’s life and remember them with a note or a call.

Many people find that the act of sharing sorrow assists everyone. Others who are more private don’t want to speak of the sorrow except to a stranger. So, you’ll have to guided by how you feel and how you think others might feel. Just keep in mind that someone in your family or in her circle of friends may like to know that they are not the only ones suffering in the way you are.The sleep disturbances that are causing you to oversleep are not only common during a grieving time, but can also be indicators of short term or long term depression. You have had only a few short weeks to find a way to deal with this, so it’s not surprising that it’s happening. But the short time frame also probably means the depressed feelings that are causing the problem are not going to be long-term. Nevertheless, any time you are experiencing a strong physical and emotional reaction, you should seek professional assistance.Let me also mention the issue of your concern about appearing to not be able to handle things.

In almost every work place people have lost loved ones–if not close family, then friends or even beloved pets. Some of those losses were more tragic and traumatic than others. Many have experienced grief that they felt was inconsolable–and perhaps all grief is. For most people who have grieved deeply, it never completely goes away. I wish I could tell you that it would, but it likely won’t–not completely and forever.What will happen is that over time, if you are emotionally healthy, you will develop a new emotional and mental strength that will allow you to deal with the burden of sadness. Before long that strength will make the burden seem lighter. Not gone, but able to be carried. You will feel happiness and joy again, even though there may always be a part of your heart that is reserved for a bittersweet memory. You’ll also find that more and more you’ll be able to smile about your grandmother and the memories you have of her.I’m not a counselor, so I don’t know if all of that is the right thing to tell you or not…but it has been true for me and others, and seems to be the case for many.You are probably a bit younger than some others at your work place. They are aware of the strain a loss like this can place on someone, so they don’t expect you to be brave and bounce back immediately. What they do expect is that you continue to be an effective worker who is able to continue communicating pleasantly and who slowly is able to come back to your former balance. You are needed there and sometimes work is the one stable aspect of life when other things have gone wrong or become hard to deal with.Some people have found that increasing physical exercise, eating even more healthily, spending a bit more time on grooming, housecleaning, work organization or reaching out to others, are all beneficial when their minds are dwelling on sad thoughts.One thing that most people go through after a loss of any kind–a death, divorce, separation or whatever–is the challenge of letting oneself have other thoughts. It seems that just when someone has spent a few hours not thinking about the sadness, they’ll think about not thinking about it, and the cycle starts again! Or, after a few days of feeling better the person will analyze how much better he or she feels and stir up the sadness again.

Sometimes you have to keep moving forward without stopping, as a way to give your heart and mind time to regain a measure of peace. All of these thoughts are mine and not those of a professional in the field of grief therapy. But, I do understand your feelings, at least in part, and wanted to share these ideas. A therapist or counselor will listen to your thoughts in more detail and can help guide you through this time. Best wishes to you. If you ever wish to do so, please let us know how you are feeling.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.