6 Tips for Dealing with Grief at Work


It’s been two weeks since your father/mother/sister/husband/wife passed away, but the time has flown by and you haven’t had a moment to let it all sink in. You’ve been on-the-go nonstop as you’ve made funeral arrangements, contacted relatives and friends, and flown back to your childhood home to be with family.

But now it’s time to go back to work, which seems like the hardest part of all. Burying your emotions while staying productive, telling your coworkers you’re okay - it all seems like a façade. But it doesn’t have to be. Read on for tips on how to deal with grief in the workplace:

  1. Tell your co-workers that you are grieving.  While many prefer to keep this to themselves, it can make things worse and deprive you of the help and support of your co-workers. Grief is a universal experience. We will all have to deal with it.
  1. Practice self-compassion and allow yourself to appear and feel sad or upset if that’s how you feel. 
  1. Take time to attend to yourself if possible during the work day.  If necessary, ask for extra breaks to gather yourself.
  1. Don’t go back to work too early if you have the option of taking more leave.  Often, people will only have a day or two off, even after the death of an immediate family member. This may not be enough time to navigate through the shock and pain of a loss before going back to work. Take the time if you need it.
  1. See work as a respite from the searing pain and confusion of loss. Often, having something else to attend to can make loss more bearable.
  1. Know when it’s time to seek outside help. If things begin to feel too difficult to deal with, or  you are starting to engage in self-destructive behavior such as drinking too much, it may be time to ask for help. A good place to start is by speaking with your supervisor or human resources about the situation. Or, if you are in the Maryland area, you can contact our Therapy Referral Service at 410-938-5000 for assistance in finding the appropriate care provider.

While grief is a universal experience, coping with grief is a personal one. Take the time you need, pay attention to your feelings, and get outside of your own head. Respect the processes of grief and healing, and how you personally need to interpret them in the workplace – you will get through this.

Dr. Thomas Franklin is the medical director of The Retreat at Sheppard Pratt. He is a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a candidate at the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. He is Board Certified in Addiction Medicine and Psychiatry, and has extensive experience in psychotherapy, psychopharmacology, and addictions and co-occurring disorders. Dr. Franklin previously served as medical director of Ruxton House, The Retreat’s transitional living program, before assuming the role of medical director of The Retreat in 2014.