Returning to Work After the Death of a Loved One

The most dreaded ‘first day back at work’ of them all.
Returning to Work After the Death of a Loved One

Following the death of a loved one, life can feel messy, the days can either drag out or fly by, and we often lose our sense of time. And who can blame us? We’ve just said goodbye to an important person… forever. If the news didn’t rock us, we’d be a little concerned.

While jumping back into routine is challenging, it’s important to get back into the swing of things when the time feels right, with work remaining a high priority on the list of ‘things to get back into’.

So here are our top tops on going back to work after the death of a loved one.

Prepare your body clock in advance

If your alarm usually sounds at 6am before work but you’ve been waking up a little later at 7 or 8am whilst in mourning, try and set your alarm for 6am instead so you can start preparing your body for an earlier wakeup.

It’s common to feel pretty exhausted following the death of a loved – it can take a huge emotional toll – so make sure you catch your zzz’s by heading to bed a little earlier if need be.

Create a realistic routine

Life isn’t the same as it was before they passed away, so why should we pretend that it is? We’d recommend creating a new routine for yourself that allows you to take things slowly, with as little pressure as possible. If you used to head out for an early morning walk before work, maybe skip that part of your ‘regular’ routine for a couple of weeks until you’re back into the swing of working a full work week. Or, alternatively, slot those activities into your ‘new’ routine to make your days feel a little less work-heavy and a little more self-care focussed.

Prepare yourself for a few tears

Returning to work after a devastating event is always tough. Don’t expect it to be easy, and don’t expect the grief or tears to magically disappear. Because spoiler alert: They won’t. Be patient with yourself while you continue to ride the waves of grief, and if need be, step away from the desk and from your colleagues momentarily to take a breather and process how you’re feeling.

Use work as a distraction

It might sound bad, but doing activities that distract you from a devastating reality can be a good coping mechanism (as long as you also give yourself time to grieve and acknowledge what has happened), especially if they’re productive activities. Try writing a list of things you’re looking forward to at work – like a project you were working on before you took some time off, or an upcoming event – and read through it before you head to the office for the day.

Coping with the guilt

With a return to work comes guilt that you’re no longer sitting at home grieving your loved one’s absence. And this is completely normal. Know that heading back to work doesn’t mean you’re “moving on” from their death, it simply means that you’re doing what you can to feel as okay as possible. Grief doesn’t simply disappear when life returns to its ‘new normal’, and your loved one would have wanted you to find yourself and your routine again after their passing.

Get help

When someone close to you passes, you might find yourself nominated as the Executor of their estate. So, in addition to returning to work, you might also now have their paperwork piling up. Seek professional help if you need it. Navigating all those extra administrative tasks whilst also dealing with your grief can add to the feeling of overwhelm. If you need assistance with probate, the team at Willed can help.

The juggle between work and other responsibilities

Finding a balance can be hard, but it’s important to find ways to do everything you need to do (and want to do) each day, in a way that works for you and feels as easy as possible. A great way to balance work and life after a period of grief is to chat to a friend or family member and ask them to help you out occasionally. For example, ask them to pick the kids up from school, to grab you a cucumber when they’re at the supermarket later on, or to come and walk your dog with you to keep you company. Chances are, your loved ones want to find a way to help you – and sometimes telling them exactly what you need is the best way for them to do that, because it’s convenient for you, too.

Wrap up

Returning to work after the death of a loved one can bring with it a gamut of emotions. Don’t feel pressure to do anything until you are ready to. And when you are ready, remember to be kind to yourself. If you can, try to allow extra pockets of time in case you need to take a breather through the day. Try to set small goals for yourself through the first days, weeks and months. And, know that moving forward with grief doesn’t mean you are moving on from the love you held for your loved one.

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