Grief At Work- Why You Should Care And What You Can Do

November 07, 20234 min read

Grief at Work – Why You Should Care And What You Can Do

After all we've been through in the last few years and the constant disruption and chaos that seems to be the new normal, almost everyone you encounter has grief. Not everyone has lost a loved one. Many have and we expect there to be grief for that, but there is also grief for other losses. All of us have experienced those. Whether it's the loss of a loved one or other losses, like a business, a job, a home, an opportunity, an experience, or our sense of how life works, as a collective, we can do better at supporting each other in grief.

Grief has remained a taboo topic in our society. It is something that all of us will experience and most of us aren’t talking about. We don't share the feelings or physical symptoms. We don't share how much our capacities diminish. We don't share about how lonely and isolated we feel. All that compounds to make grief far worse than it needs to be.


With grief all around us, that means grievers are at work. Most people receive one to three days off depending on the relationship to the deceased. We then are expected to return to work as normal. This is an impossible expectation. In a recent UK study, 43% of employees felt pressured to return to work before they were ready. Most grievers need to be at work financially and many find work a respite from grief and a chance to interact with the regular world.


If you're a business leader you know that building good relationships with and among your team is critical for success. Grief is a place where because of our fear, we end up feeling isolated instead of connected. You might feel uncomfortable about what to say to someone returning to work after a loss. You might not know what to say when the loss has occurred at work. None of that is your fault. Most of us don't know what to do or say and how to best support someone who's experiencing grief. By approaching grief with compassion and curiosity we can change that.


To start, take a look at where grief might be impacting your business’s. You likely have grief to a degree in these three areas:.

Where and how are your staff bringing grief from their personal lives?

·      Perhaps you have employees who have lost loved ones or experienced other losses.

·      Perhaps there is something happening in your community that is creating collective grief.


Where and how is grief being created at work?

·      Perhaps you have had a staff member die or your employees face losses of patients or clients.

·      Perhaps you had a restructure lately and the people kept their jobs have survivors’ guilt, feel uncertainty and miss their colleagues.

·      Perhaps you launched a product that didn't take off the way you had hoped.


Where and how are your customers experiencing grief?

·      Perhaps you provide a service that people often need after the loss of a loved one like real estate or financial services.

·      Perhaps your client group has higher than normal levels of grief because of higher risk factors.


Responding to these areas requires business leaders to have high emotional intelligence, self-regulation, and an ability to have awkward conversations. These are skills we can develop and improve with practice. One great place to practice getting more comfortable with grief is in talking about and supporting smaller griefs as they happen. To change the culture around grief so that we can have our employees fully engaged at work regardless of what is going on for them, we must lead by example.


Once you've located the grief in your business, there are supports you can put in place. Grief impacts each person differently but there are several things that are common and impact us especially in the workplace. Brain fog, which impacts our memory, sense of time, and ability to do multi step tasks is a great place to start.


Every business is different, which is why I love building customized support structures with input from staff and leadership. Here are some of the top suggestions I hear repeatedly:

·      Flex time: if you can, be flexible around when and where your employees do their work.

·      Shared calendars, Google Docs etc: if you have ongoing projects have information and deliverables documented which helps grievers, and everyone else, stay on track.

·      Safety protocols: if you have workers in high risk jobs implement additional safety protocols for when they are easily distracted in early grief.

·      A private space to grieve: sometimes grief can temporarily overwhelm us and it is very helpful to have a private place to grieve that is not the bathroom stall.


Great business leaders know the better we take care of our staff, the more we increase job satisfaction, engagement and productivity. Opening conversations about grief and loss and having consistent, documented policies and protocols to support people shows everyone they are seen, heard and valued - even when they are struggling and their productivity temporarily drops. That’s a win-win.

To learn more about what you can do, please go to SuzanneJabour.com/book to get your copy of my free E-Book.

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Through her insightful teachings and thoughtfully designed programs, Suzanne offers a path guided by emotional intelligence and real life experience to address the full spectrum of the complex emotions and consequences of grief while expanding the capacity to engage fully with life post loss. Her heartfelt approach also honours the depth of loss through the invaluable practice of cherishing and expressing love for what has been lost and experienced.

Bonnie Lynn

Business Owner/Consultant


In a recent peer meeting, I shared the statistics you provided regarding the number of co-workers that are dealing with grief at any given time. We committed to not only acknowledging the grief but also to providing sustained support.

Kay McBreairty

Program Manager