Loss and Grief
In my past role of Community Relations Advisor and Grief Educator for Invocare Australia I gave training/education sessions to aged care and palliative care workers. Now I provide education sessions on this topic as a private provider. One of those sessions is titled Understanding and Responding to Grief and Loss, I’ve researched this well so I’m very aware of how this impacts us all, not only in our private lives but also in the work place. Death and illness are not the only circumstances that can result in feelings of loss and time and productivity lost to business and industry is enormous therefore we must remember, grief and loss is not just about death and dying. The sessions I give are easily adapted for small or large numbers of staff so I am now moving more into this field.
Let’s firstly have a look at the things other than a death that are specific to the workplace and can produce a grief like response:
Loss of a job – redundancy, downsizing, reduction in workforce, mergers
Being passed over for promotion – due to age or ability
Loss of your home – reduced circumstances, relocation
Receiving promotion – having to change how you relate with colleagues/friends
The above list relates to the workplace but what about on a personal level?
Relationship breakup – people of all ages are often severely affected by this eg rejection and low self esteem.
Divorce – regardless of whether you are the one who leaves or the one who is left.
Relationship changes – you are not just parents and when children leave the family home they must make the transition to a new and sometimes different relationship with parents as must the parents forge a different kind of relationship with each other.
Growing older – a challenge
The loss of friendships – people and their circumstances change or they move away.
There are many things that will create a grief response, what happens in the workplace will affect home life and vice versa. Work colleagues and management need to be aware of this and have measures in place to help workers cope and therefore not be taking unnecessary time off work. Sadly there is a perception in a lot of work situations when workers feel that if they ask for help or discuss their personal problems then their position may be in jeopardy. Most big business’s have access to a counselling service and will either pay for or subsidise an employee for a number of sessions in a time of crisis but small business can’t afford this type of support so is there an answer to this problem?
In a lot of work situations there is often a great divide between older and younger workers but the reality is that with age comes experience and I’m talking life experience here. Many young people either have no one to turn to or feel unsupported at home, for any of us to be able to open up about our problems we need to feel safe!
A buddy system in the work place is one fairly simple way of providing support to workers. It doesn’t always mean that the young are supported by the older mature workers, this can work both ways as middle aged parents often have issues with adolescent children who won’t communicate. What a great opportunity for those people to get to know adolescent culture, building a relationship with a young person in the workplace
But what about the intense pain of grief when we lose someone we love or at least have a relationship with, through death?
To this there is no easy answer however in my experience having a better understanding of our responses to the pain of loss will better equip us in dealing with it. We need to be more open in providing tools to assist the community at large, intense grief is a debilitating condition and it takes time to recover.
The journey of working through loss and grief is complicated, more for some than for others and when I ask management whether they suffer reduced productivity and work hours they of course all answer in the affirmative.
Communication is the key and it’s important that those in senior or supervisory positions are given the opportunity to learn and practise this.