Death can be a word rarely mentioned in many workplaces. It's a word many are afraid of and there may be a general tendency to avoid talking about death, says our family counsellor Yvonne. 

In this blog for Dying Matters Week, Yvonne addresses some of the difficulties of talking about death and grief at work and how to start a conversation with employees and colleagues. 

Grief in the workplace

Most people are impacted by death at some point in their working life – and it can be a very taboo subject. Grief is not a recognised requirement for time off and is often classed as a mental health concern such as stress, anxiety or depression. However, grief is a  natural and normal process.

The process of grief can affect people socially, emotionally, behaviourally and physically and experiencing difficulties in these areas may indicate an employee and colleague may need more time off, sometimes unpaid. 

Those affected by death, dying and grief may see an impact on their ability to perform at work months after the bereavement. Responding to grief sensitively in the workplace is so important but often a challenge to organisations and colleagues.

There is a stigma around grieving and the inevitable challenges when facing illness and death. As we spend so much of our time at work, it is important to talk to those around us which means creating a compassionate workforce and a culture where support is appropriate for all those who have lost a loved one.

Starting a conversation around death

This can be very challenging. Remember - you cannot make it better and you cannot take the pain away – but by showing some interest, by not shying from their sadness you can show you care and value your employees and colleagues and their feelings.

More could be done by organisations to prepare for bereavement leave and assisted work returns, and this can often be overlooked.

There should be the compassionate treatment of grieving employees. To maintain a mentally well and productive workforce, it is essential to understand how the bereaved can best be supported in their work environment taking into account and respecting ethnic and cultural diversity and the needs of the bereaved individual.

Please remember that we are here to help too. Hope House Children’s Hospices offer a free and confidential counselling service to mums, dads, and family members, who have been affected by the death of a baby, child or young person up to the age of 18 years when they died. This support is available to anyone living in Shropshire, Cheshire, Mid and North Wales.

Our counselling service is British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Accredited and all our counsellors are registered or accredited members of the BACP.

Please call Hope House on 01691 672618 or Ty Gobaith on 01492 554443 for more information about how we can help.