Charles Benayon

Founder & CEO of Aspiria

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Good Grief: Managing Loss in Your Workplace

shutterstock_160641419Dealing with the death of a loved one is one of the most difficult challenges we face in life. I have experienced grief in my own life, so I know that it can feel like your entire world has abruptly collapsed, which is why returning to work after a personal loss can be incredibly tough.

In Canada, employers are required to give their employees three days of paid bereavement leave when a member of their immediate family passes away. While I appreciate that employees are given time off to grieve their loss, I know that it takes longer than three days to recover from a death in the family. I recently spoke with a friend of mine who had returned to work after the loss of his mother. He said, “It was strange to return to work and act professionally when inside it felt like my whole world had been turned upside down.”

Grief doesn’t just take an emotional toll on employees. A recent study found that 85% of management-level employees ranked their decision-making skills from very poor to fair in the weeks and months following the loss of a loved one. When someone is dealing with the complex emotions associated with loss, it can be hard to focus on projects and assignments. This, in turn, can impact other employees who rely on this individual for their work, therefore creating a stressful workplace environment.

So how can managers of people deal with grief in the workplace? While everyone deals with death differently, here is a list of tips for managers on how to manage grief in the workplace.

Make accommodations: While the grieving individual is away, understand that they might not be completely “back” when they return to work. Depending on the individual’s role in the company, you can try to alleviate some of their daily work stress by asking others to help pitch in. Having minor stresses eliminated from their workload will allow the grieving individual to ease back into their role more comfortably.

Incorporate grief training into your workplace: We spend a majority of our lives at work, so we are bound to experience grief at some point in our career. Knowing this, a proactive plan to deal with grief in the workplace could resolve a lot of issues. Teach your employees about the grieving process and how to deal with an employee who has lost someone. That way, if and when the time comes, they will understand how to better deal with the situation.

Give them a chance to talk: Some people want to talk through their emotions while others prefer to internalize them. No matter who the employee is, as a manager, make it your responsibility to let them know that you are there for them if they ever want to discuss their grief.

Get help: While there is a difference between grief and depression, the loss of a loved one can trigger depression. If an employee is having a difficult time adjusting after they have lost someone close to them and they continue to show signs of depression, contact your organization’s EAP provider. They can provide mental health support that will help your employee through this difficult time.

Loss can be overwhelming. Knowing your organization has the tools in place to help employees through this difficult time will make it easier to cope with grief in your workplace.

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Moncton Tragedy: How a Community Heals

Late last night suspected gunman Justin Bourque was arrested for the allegedly killing three MountiesIn light of the recent shooting of three RCMP officers, the Moncton, New Brunswick community can breathe easier now that they are free from imminent violence and danger, but now the difficult part begins – grief and healing.

How does a small community learn to feel safe after experiencing that level of threat and violence and being subject to home lockdown, while police tracked a man armed with assault rifles? How does the same community recover from the loss of three men who were fathers, colleagues, brothers and sons of many of the community members?

It would be only too easy for a community like Moncton to remain angry and unforgiving at not only the man who committed these crimes, but at the failure of those around him to recognize warning signs and allowing deadly weapons in the hands of someone capable of such violence. However, healing is possible when individuals in the community rely on each other and use their shared grief to move forward. Recovery occurs through the participation in formal settings, like participation in memorials, vigils and community gatherings, but healing also takes place in the small moments, between friends and family members, verbalizing their grief by speaking about their loss and confusion. In a small, tight-knit community such as Moncton, and their closeness will no doubt aid in their path to healing.

Community leaders play a vital role in the healing of an entire community, as they need to recognize and assess the needs of the community members and encourage understanding and tolerance when it is almost impossible to do so. These leaders – political, educational, business, religious – have the unique responsibility to manage their own grief in addition to guiding the community members to the next stage of healing when they are ready.

In the case of such reckless violence and loss, we may be at a loss to comprehend the reasons why the shooter took this particular course of action, or how his state of mental health played into his decision-making. The community must remember that while there may be no understanding this tragedy, recovery is possible through forgiveness and love.

As surrounding supporters of the Moncton community, what can we do to learn from their experience? Perhaps it is to remember that every day matters and that, since life can be unpredictable, we need to hold on tight to what is important and learn to never take it for granted.

How else can the community of Moncton manage their grief? What is important for them to remember? I look forward to your thoughts below.