How to support grieving employees

 “In the journey back to the land of the living with grief, we unexpectedly found a rather unlikely and very helpful ally: my work.”

Tilak Mandadi shares his experience of grief when he lost his only child; his 19 year old daughter. He talks about how his work helped him overcome those negative feelings of resentment and regret. Those beliefs of self-doubt changed into feelings of hope and purpose, when he returned to work.

Mr. Mandadi highlights how his return helped in improving the productivity of the employees. He found a new version of himself; his grief helped him deal with people with more patience and humility. When people work without any personal agendas or egos they perform better. These occurrences modified the environment of workplace.

One need not hide their emotions and put on a happy face when resuming work. To help the grieving employees achieve acceptance of their loss and readjust to the workplace, organizations can bring certain changes in their structures.

 “I came to believe that a workplace where empathy is a core part of the culture that is a joyful and productive workplace and that workplace inspires a great deal of loyalty.”

Integrating empathy as a value in the organization’s policies facilitates a smooth return to work. The administration must invest in mental well-being of grieving employees. They can do so in three ways- employee empathic policies, return-to-work-therapy, and empathy training.

 “We don’t want a grieving employee to have to cobble together vacation days and sick days and unpaid leave and whatever else.”

Formulating a time-off policy lets the individual grieve their loss in a personalised manner without worrying about exhausting their allowed leaves.  It removes any pressure of unwillingly returning to work, harnesses well-being, and fosters trust in the organization. With these policies in place, a grieving employee can adequately resume their old role.

“I needed therapy to figure out how to be considerate of others’ normal lives when my own life is so very different. Therapy helped me give myself permission to be vulnerable.” 

Return-to-work therapy can help one develop insights and attach meaning to their loss. Allowing employees to be able to feel at work by giving them the required emotional space can initiate speedy recovery. Bereavement can trigger an emotional response even at the smallest situation. Therapy can help in processing these feelings, remain in touch with reality, and maintain productivity at work.

“Empathy training can help people acknowledge that a co-worker is a very different person after a life-changing loss, and ask that simple and direct question: what would you like me to do differently to help you?”

Providing behavioural training to employees can equip them with necessary skills that are required when interacting with a grieving individual. Being cognizant and sensitive to a colleague’s loss makes them feel understood. Such actions do not let their grief be trivialised rather acknowledges it.



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