When people know they can bring their pain to the office, they no longer have to expend energy trying to ignore or suppress it, and they can more easily and effectively get back to work,” says Monica Worline, a research scientist at Stanford’s Center for Compassion and Altruism. It’s so profound, as we all want to feel safe in professional spaces. How do we create this experience for ourselves and others?

In an earlier post, we explored how we could support our colleagues who are grieving. But now, let’s explore how to make room for our own grief, given that we have to get back to work at some point. 

  • Know that your emotions will be unpredictable. You are likely to tear up when you least expect it. On some days you’ll be sad, and on some others, angry. Being in tune with your emotions will help you take the space you need. And it’ll help if you have empathy for your own experience. The fact that you’re grieving means that you have lost someone significant. It’s okay to feel for it.
  • Have a place to escape to. When you feel overwhelmed by emotions, don’t avoid them or distract yourself. This is especially true with crying, because you’ll get a release. Maybe go away into your car? Or a specific restroom/ quiet corner in a meeting room where you feel safe to just cry. Think of it as a private space to recoup for a little bit.
  • Create a safety box for yourself. What things would make you feel better or comfortable when you feel particularly challenged? Keep them at your desk. Be it a picture of your loved one, some tissues, candy, a book that you can go back to time and again, and even water. Maybe even write an inspiring/ loving note to yourself. These things will make you feel held.
  • Pause during your workday. A tendency many of us have is to just dive into work so we don’t have to feel the pain. But, grief needs to be attended to, and it saps energy. So, take breaks during your workday. Schedule them if possible. Spend that time alone or with a friend. Want a better idea? Rest. Take power naps. Or just step outside to look at trees. 
  • Make a list of things you have to do. A hallmark of grief, is feeling lost and disoriented. Which means we won’t be too productive. But, making sure we do some work tasks and errands every day, will channel our energy and make us feel healthy. So, list out a minimum number of things you know you can do in a day, and seek support for the rest. 

Managing grief is a deep practice in self-compassion and self-awareness. How would you like to honor your life commitments, while making room for emotions?

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