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Grief and Employees

This week we note National Grief Awareness Day, as a reminder of the effect grief can have on all of us at any time in our lives. As I’ve learned throughout my life, grief can affect me in different ways at different times and I certainly don’t always know when it’s coming.

I’ve experienced losses throughout my life, with one of the most impactful being when my mother passed away in 2020. She and I were very close, and I still pick up the phone from time to time to call her before I remember she’s gone. I try and honor her memory when that happens by remembering something fun we did or something she taught me in my life so that her memory goes on and she “lives” through these times.

What does this have to do with employment? With mental health issues being prevalent in today’s world, we need to remember that feelings of loss and grief can come in all shapes and forms. We experience grief when we lose a job or transition out of a department or away from a manager that we truly enjoyed working with. When something in our life changes, we often grieve the “known.”

Grief is not always caused by what we may classify as a “big” event and that doesn’t make it any less real. And while we may think something that happened three years ago should no longer cause an emotional response, it may feel like yesterday to the person experiencing it.

As managers, we need to remember this and be compassionate with our staff. Make sure you know what resources are available through your medical plan or if you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or any other access for help for mental health issues. If you have an employee who is simply having a bad day, lend them your ear or give them some space if you can. If it becomes more pervasive, or seems to go beyond that, provide the resources so they can get help when/if needed.

Make sure your employees feel safe enough to reach out. We spend a lot of time working together and we all need to help each other when we can. Just being available to listen and caring can each go a long way in improving mental health and supporting someone who may be grieving.

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