Most people will tell you they rarely think about death. However, on an unconscious level our fear of it, impacts the decisions we make every day. To deny the reality of the finite nature of our human existence, can lead us to being ill-equipped to deal with death. Organizations tend to be mostly concerned with profitability and growth and can often let being human drop to the bottom of their priorities. Our corporate Human Resources departments seem sometimes, to not be all that human anymore. The larger a corporation gets, the more policy there seems to be for dealing with what are considered to be health and wellness issues for employees. Grief tends to be neglected in much of the HR resource materials and management is often not trained sufficiently, on how to deal with it.
Mental Health issues on the other hand are getting a lot of attention, a basic google search for Mental Health in the Workplace will get you 40 times more hits than Grief in the Workplace. It would seem that companies are very concerned about workplace health and wellness. We all know that what happens in the workplace doesn’t stay in the workplace. It finds its way into our personal lives and impacts our families. It makes us sick and impacts us back at the office. Well folks, what happens in our personal lives also finds its way into the workplace, and sometimes it is traumatic. And often we don’t have any better idea, than you, with how to handle it. However, let’s stop calling grief a mental illness. While grief can involve elements of depression, in the sense of low mood, it is very different.
Grief can make you acutely aware of what the loss of connection, can do to you. When given the time to honor that fully, grief can become something that transforms you. You don’t get over or forget your loss, you find resources to get through it and from this emerges a new person. Many organizations are missing out on that transformation; where we become stronger and better prepared for the challenges yet to be seen. Our bounce back gets stronger and we appreciate the world around us in a different way.
Being labeled depressed is insulting and not helpful. Saying things like “we just want you to get back to normal” is absurd. Back, is not somewhere you can go, when someone dies.
I’m not suggesting dealing with grief has a one size fits all approach. What I am suggesting however is, if you have a department that deals with providing support to a grieving employee, make sure you resource training on responding to trauma and death, and what helps vs hinders the journey your employee is on.