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Going back to work after a bereavement

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Losing someone you love or care for will likely trigger a whole wave of emotions. From shock to anger to sadness and despair. There may be moments when you feel that life will never be the same again, because let’s face it life has changed dramatically now.

With Mental Health Awareness week (10-16 May 2021) coming up, at Tom Owen and Son we think it’s key to address some areas that will affect those that have been bereaved. This blog addresses going back to work after a bereavement.

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According to ACAS, anyone that is classed as an employee is entitled to time off if a dependant (partner, parent, child) dies. The law does not state how much time can be taken but it should be ‘reasonable’.

Parental bereavement leave allows for employees to have 2 weeks off if their child dies under the age of 18 or is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy.

You may see returning to work, after your bereavement leave, as a lifeline or opportunity to focus on something other than the loss you have experienced. Or perhaps, the thought of going back to work fills you with dread and wondering how you may get through the day.

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If you are a bereaved person returning to work….

Here are some of our thoughts on how to get through this difficult time:

  • Do you feel up to returning full-time or would a staged return be better? Speak to your manager about a plan to integrate you back into your workplace.
  • Reflect on how your colleagues may respond to you. Do you want them to act as everything is ‘normal’ or would you prefer them to acknowledge the loss openly? Prepare for how you’ll respond when people are unsure how to talk to you. They will likely mean well but won’t know how to articulate it.
  • Consider ‘reality hit’ moments - perhaps you may be in a meeting, or having lunch with a colleague when the emotion becomes overwhelming. Do you need to take time out on your own or talk to someone?
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  • Be kind to yourself. Consider whether doing long hours or being involved in a demanding project is right for you at the moment. Your sleep and concentration is likely to be affected by grief.
  • Join our Coffee Connection bereavement support group! They run once a month on the third Thursday from 10am until 12pm. Anyone is welcome regardless of when they were bereaved. You can find out more here.
  • Talk to someone if you are struggling. Ask for access to bereavement counselling if your employer offers this or speak to your GP. Tom Owen and Son offer one complimentary bereavement counselling session to all clients which you might find helpful. You can find more information about that here.
  • Find something that interests you. Perhaps you enjoy walking or photography. Could you look to join a class?
  • Connect with nature. Whether that’s exercising outside, nurturing a new house plant or sitting with a coffee listening to the birds. Being within nature is said to have huge benefits for our mental health, that’s why for Mental Health Awareness weeks (10-16 May 2021) theme is nature. You can find tips on how to connect with nature here.
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