Whether we like it or not: Grief is REAL
When something that you love and cherish has been taken from you, it will cause pain, deep emotional suffering, that we call grief. Frequently we think of grief as only something that we go through when someone close to us has died, but in truth, grief is what you feel whenever you lose something valuable to you. When you go through a divorce, your health changes, you lose a pet, or even just lose a treasured dream, you will go through a period of grief and mourning. It’s important to understand grief because it affects all area’s of your life and it’s important to understand that when there is a loss in the workplace, your employees can go through a period of grief.
There are many reasons for why you and your fellow’s employees could be going through grief while at work. Perhaps a fellow employee has passed on. Maybe a favored employee is suddenly ill. Or the company has downsized and many of the faces you used to see every day are gone. When a sudden traumatic event strikes your workplace, grief will frequently follow.
Misconceptions about Grief
When grief is mishandled due to ignorance or misconceptions it can spiral out of control. It can turn your workplace into a dark and inefficient place: increasing tardiness, increasing absences, missed deadlines, resentment, hostilities, and arguments can all start to take root. When you’re forced to let more employees go as a result of this it can just deepen the grieving process as more people are lost. We’re first going to dispel misconceptions about grief and then we’ll talk about what can be done to help you and your employee’s return to work in a positive fashion through either individual counseling or through group counseling.
There are many misconceptions about what Grief is. It’s important to understand and dispel these misconceptions so that you can process your grief in a healthy fashion. This is especially true when your workplace is going through a period of grief and mourning. The better you are at understanding just what exactly grief is, and what it isn’t, the better you can move forward and return to being productive employees.
“If you’re grieving you’re mourning.”
Grief and mourning are two different processes that we go through when we’ve experienced loss. The first one, grief, is your inner response to the loss. The thoughts, the pain, of your loss within your own mind day to day is you going through the grieving process. While mourning is the social act of us sharing our internal grieving. When someone you love dies you may go to group counseling to mourn their loss with others. When you go home that night you will grieve alone.
“You grief only when it’s someone close to you that dies.”
It’s thought that the only people who grief someone’s death are those people the deceased were closest to but it is felt by everyone who felt connected to the person who was deceased. Anyone who felt an emotional attachment to the deceased will grieve their passing, even if they didn’t seem particularly close.
“You only grieve death.”
Death is one of the most recognizable causes of grief and this has resulted in us believing that grief is only accompanied with death. In truth, grief is the emotional pain you feel at having lost something important to you and has little to do with death itself. If you loved something, if something was important to you, and it was taken away you will grief for it.
“You will only grieve when you’ve lost something.”
This might be the most deceptive misconceptions about grief. Grief is about loss but not just the act of loss; when someone is ill, when you know you’re going to lose your job, when you know you will be leaving your family home, you will experience grief at the anticipation of your loss. Knowing you’re going to lose something will cause you pain and that is grief.
“The only way to get past grief is to forget about the dead.”
Some people think that the only way to get past grief is to just let go of the love you had for the dead. That if you forget about what they mean to you, you will no longer have to grieve. This may be semantically true in a distorted fashion, it’s not fully possible to forget what you’ve loved. What we cherish, what we emotionally invest ourselves in, marks us. It changes and influences us; when we lose those things it hurts and it’s okay to grieve that loss. You have lost something which made you who you are.
“Grief is just emotional pain.”
There is nothing “just” about grief. It is an emotional pain but that pain can affect you physically making you prone to sickness. It will affect the way you think; making it hard for you make decisions and solve problems. It will make you act out in anger in ways you never have before and make your friendships harder to maintain. It can make you distracted at work and put your job in jeopardy. Grief is emotional pain that can seep into every aspect of your life.
“There are five predictable stages of Grief.”
While there are stages of grief, we all individually handle the pain differently. Socially, culturally, there are different ways of handling grief that is deemed acceptable and we try to tailor our grieving to those socially and culturally accepted. But grief is an emotional pain that does not exist for cultural acceptance or social approval. It is a part of you, unique to you, you might be nothing but angry about your loss while everyone else is crying. Both your anger and their tears are okay.
“Tears are a sign of being weak.”
This is more a cultural idea than anything that true. Many cultures see tears as a sign of weakness but just as many see it as a healthy sign of mourning. Crying is a natural physical response to pain, whether it is physical or emotional, that removes toxins that build up in our bodies during time of stress. Specifically, crying removes cortisol from the body which is a hormone our bodies produce during emotional and physical stress. Crying is not only natural but will actively help you to lessen your stress.
“You’ll go back to normal”
Grief isn’t an illness that you will “get better” from. Grief is an emotional pain that you will move through and be changed for that transition. You’ve lost something dear to you and that loss will change you. While you process that grief you will mold how that change will affect you but you will not just be “normal” like you were before your loss.