Our working policies do not cater to our grieving process. Some places only allow up to 3 days for bereavement. Some organizations might provide EAP (Employee Assistant Program). But realistically, these companies and organizations' policies are not worried about us. You do meet some kind and caring employers, but they are running a business at the end of the day. Unfortunately, grief does not work on a schedule as policies do.
So what do we do with that? Now I can hit you with the "ThIs Is WhY We NeEd tO sAvE aNd pLaN."
But the reality is it does not matter much you save or plan, death and loss are going to happen and it is going to hurt. Grief is not something that will be fixed in a couple of days and there is not a one plan fixes all for people who are grieving.
I tried going back to work the week I got back to my hometown from my mom's funeral. And I was blessed because I had a boss that told me he did not think I was ready. And let me tell you, I was not. I was running around, taking my brother to doctor appointments, and I was still in grad school. I was so close to graduation that I was trying to finish so I wouldn't have to stay past my graduation date. During this time, I did utilize EAP through my job and found a therapist. My siblings and niece and nephews all went to therapy together. We all set up our appointments around one another and were going to the same place. Some days were okay, but other days were a daze.
I remember going to class some days and not being able to focus. I would be in class for almost four hours and could not tell you anything that had happened. I had a whole final project that my team members pushed for me to finish and helped me complete my part because my mind was so gone. There was no focal point. When I finally went back to work, I was so dry. I no longer engaged as much as I did. I had to prep myself to meet with students and school officials and groups and admins and anyone I had been meeting before my mom passed. I was on autopilot.
But let's take a look at my life when my daddy passed away when I was 15. I was a freshman in high school. I would sit by the window where daddy would come to pick me up, I could see his car pull up as he waited for the bell to ring. I remember a week after the funeral, my mom told me I had to go back to school. I went back to school, and all the kids knew that my dad had pas. People did not know what to say to me. I didn't have much to say either, though. I tried to be strong, but in reality, my life had just taken a turn for the worst.
What was the difference between me being 15 and 26? Not much to be honest. I went from being kind, loving, and caring to I had to try to figure out what my new normal was and still trying to live out my daily life.
Working and grieving are probably one of the hardest things to do. Why? Because the world gets to move on while our hearts are still stuck with our loved one(s). Everyone gets to go back to normal, and we are forced to go back to work and live our daily lives while our hearts are literally broken. Work is always going to be there, and these organizations just do not seem to get that. But our health, that is something that we often forget about because of our grief. How is that fair?
It's not. It's absolutely not fair. Realistically, we should have 2-4 weeks off for bereavement with an option to come back to our job. It might take someone 2 weeks alone to plan a funeral and another 2 weeks to process. again, it is not perfect or times, but at least that time is granted. Mother's and father's who just gave birth don't even have enough time to process giving life so imagine people who are grieving, we are constantly overlooked and told to just go back to normal.
So, if you're grieving and you're back at work, I encourage you to know and explore your limits. Set those boundaries. I know it's work and it pays your bills, but your grieving process matters. Please remember that you can love and cater to yourself the way you do your family, place of employment, and the world. I had to tell my job that two days out of my 6 day work week were strictly office days. Those days were my days to be in my office and work on paperwork and planning and not leave the office for any reason. I could hardly do early morning meetings. So I started to only do meetings after 10:00 am and until 3:00 pm. By 3:15 PM I wanted to be back in my office to finish out the day. This was a boundary I had to set because people were so used to me being there early in the morning to late in the afternoon and I no longer had the mental capacity to be there for anyone else because I needed to be there for me. I had to set those boundaries and cater to my needs. It wasn't easy, but it was necessary.
So, if you're grieving and you're back at work, I encourage you to know and explore your limits. Set those boundaries. I know it's work and it pays your bills, but your grieving process matters. Please remember that you can love and cater to yourself the way you do your family, place of employment and the world.
I love you so much! I believe in you and I am rooting for you.
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