looking out the window at workWhen should you go back to work after losing a partner, parent or child?

First of all, I've been told you "shouldn't" say "should." Everyone grieves in their own way, in their own time. You need to chose what makes seems to make sense, or do what you have to do, and then make it work for you.

Personally, I did not feel ready to go back to work for many months. My profession requires sharpness and the ability to concentrate. I simply was not functioning at the required level.

On the other hand, I know someone who went back to work a few days after she came home and found her husband dead of a heart attack. (He had been complaining that something was wrong, but neither she nor the doctors believed him, and tests showed nothing unusual.)

At first it looked to me like she spent the next two years avoiding grief by throwing herself into work. I spent a year "working" hard at healing. Yet at the end of two years, she appears to have recovered just as well as I did. So it is probably not a case of which is right and which is wrong.

Going back to work does helps keep you from obsessing constantly about loss. It forcibly re-inserts you into life. At work, you must deal with things that have nothing to do with your loss.

Here are some of my lessons learned about going back to work:

  • Grieving can affect concentration. Do pay attention to safety in an industrial setting. See tips on dealing with this challenge.
  • You may not be functioning at full capacity. You may start crying at inopportune moments. Be gentle with yourself. Give yourself time to recover.
  • Try not to use work to completely avoid dealing with loss. It will probably resurface at a later date if you don't deal with it. Of course, it's also possible that you may be in better shape to deal with it later.
  • Realize that some people don't know about your loss. Others may not care, or may not be comfortable discussing it. So you probably don't want to talk about it 24/7, even though that is where your thoughts may be in the beginning.




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