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The Show Must Go On: 7 Tips For Returning Back to Work After a Loss


It can be difficult to resume your normal life after a traumatic experience or loss of a loved one. When the funeral is over and the office beckons, we hope this list of seven tips for re-entering the world helps ease the transition.

the show must go on

(Photo Credit: david_shankbone/Flickr)

Going back to work after the loss of a loved one can be a daunting task, but if anyone has proved that it’s possible for the show to go on, it’s Glee‘s star actress, Lea Michele. With the recent passing of her costar and boyfriend, Cory Monteith, Michele has managed to take time to grieve privately and return back to work just weeks after Monteith’s passing. PayScale uses Lea Michele as an example to bring you with this list of seven tips for returning back to work after the loss of a loved one.

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1. Take time to grieve with loved ones – It’s important to allow yourself the time and space to grieve over your loss and not try to ignore the tragic event. In Lea Michele’s case, she chose to remain out of the spotlight while she grieved until she was ready and willing to publicly break her silence to fans on The 2013 Teen Choice Awards. Most employers have bereavement leaves that respect a person’s need to spend time away from work during a time of loss, but if your employer does not have such a policy, then inquire with your state’s labor department to verify what bereavement rights you may be entitled to. If all else fails, utilize any sick or vacation time you have accrued to allow yourself some time to grieve away from the workplace.

2. Be patient with yourself – Everyone deals with loss differently, so don’t expect your experience to be similar to others. Also, don’t beat yourself up with thoughts of “I should have done this…” or “I could have don’t that…” because they won’t change the past and will keep you stuck in a state of guilt that is counterproductive to you coping with the loss and moving on with your life. Glee‘s creator, Ryan Murphy, stated, “I feel like we did everything that we could and I know that Lea feels she did everything that she could.” 

It will take some time to grieve the loss, find acceptance, and be able to move on in this new chapter of your life, so be patient and kind to yourself throughout the process.

3. Transition back to work gradually – The barrage of sympathetic comments from your colleagues such as, “I’m sorry” and “Are you okay?” should be expected upon your first day back. Therefore, try and make arrangements with your employer to work a half-day where you’re able to somewhat transition back into the swing of things at a reasonable pace and also allowed some time to talk with your coworkers. Dealing with a loss may make it difficult, and even impossible, to concentrate on your work, so make the transition back gradually and don’t expect to get back to the grind overnight. For the Glee cast, it looks like the show chose to delay the filming of season 5 due to the unexpected death of Cory Monteith, allowing the cast time to grieve and the writers time to figure out a respectful way to proceed with writing Monteith’s character, Finn Hudson, off of the show.

4. Don’t expect others share your grief – This may seem a bit harsh, but you shouldn’t expect your coworkers to share in your grief and pain with you, despite how close you may be with them. Although most people will express sympathy and be willing to lend a listening ear now and again, the reality is, everyone is also dealing with their own issues in life and it may be draining if you’re constantly talking about your loss in the workplace, especially while you’re “on the clock.” If you are needing to talk about your grief, then consider turning to your human resources representative or seeking out professional help instead.

5. Take breaks when necessary – If you’re finding it difficult to concentrate or you feel a wave of emotions coming on while you’re at work, then try taking a walk around the block to clear your mind. Being stuck at a cubicle or office for hours on end is probably not ideal when you’re dealing with a loss, so step outside and see if a bit of fresh air helps.

6. Turn to human resources – You may want to talk to your HR representative if you are unable to concentrate at work or having a hard time emotionally after returning back to your job. HR will be able to provide you with a list of resources and/or grief counseling services to help you deal with your loss effectively. To lend support to the show’s cast, Ryan Murphy, creator of Glee, has made arrangements for grief counselors to remain on the set for two weeks while the cast returns back to filming for the first time since Monteith’s unexpected death. One of the main benefits of turning to your HR department or seeking out professional help rather than talking to coworkers is that your personal matters are kept confidential by law.

7. Delegate or ask for additional help meeting deadlines – Unfortunately, no matter how earth-shattering your loss may be, there will still be deadlines to meet at work, so don’t be afraid to delegate more tasks than usual or ask for help from others on your team. During your time of sorrow, your coworkers and superiors should be understanding and offer to lend a helping hand, so don’t be afraid to ask for additional help if you need it. Try not to take on more than you can handle during this time because the last thing you need is to overwhelm yourself and add any more stress to your life. Remember, baby steps … make the transition gradual and realistic.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you had to deal with returning to work after the loss of a loved one recently? If so, share your experience on Twitter or in the comments section below.

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