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Remembering National Grief Awareness Week

This week is National Grief Awareness Week, an annual event that aims to create a safe space to openly discuss our experiences with grief and loss. It encourages empathy, compassion, and support for those who are grieving, emphasising that grief is a universal and often challenging part of the human experience.

The event intends to provide support to those who are grieving, while raising awareness of the need to better understanding the grieving process. It acknowledges that grief is a natural response to loss and aims to break the stigma surrounding this deeply personal experience.

Participating in National Grief Awareness Week is a meaningful way to support those who are grieving and contribute to breaking down the barriers surrounding grief. Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Share personal stories: Encourage individuals to share their experiences with grief, either through written narratives, art, or verbal discussions. This sharing can help others feel less alone in their grief journey.
  • Attend grief support events: Look for local or online grief support events, workshops, and seminars. These can provide valuable information and a supportive community for those in need.
  • Offer a listening ear: Sometimes, the most significant support you can provide is to listen without judgment. Offer your time and empathy to someone who is grieving.
  • Spread awareness: Use social media and other platforms to share information about National Grief Awareness Week, including facts about grief and resources for support.
  • Support grief organisations: Contribute to or volunteer with organisations dedicated to helping individuals cope with grief and loss.

It is highly likely that you have a friend or work colleague that has lost a close friend or family member within the last few years and may need your support. Don’t be scared if a friend or work colleague tells you that their mental health is suffering due to grief. Although it can be upsetting to see someone you are close to going through this, by offering friendship, you can make a huge difference.

Many of us find it difficult to talk about our mental health, even when it’s connected with something as natural as loss, but you don’t need to be an expert to do so and it can really help sufferers to recover. Talking can strengthen relationships and take the taboo out of something that affects us all.

Ways that you can look out for colleagues struggling at work:
Avoid working in isolation: be mindful of the difficult emotions they are facing
How are you?: Take time to ask your colleagues how they are doing
Look out for changes: notice if someone is not quite themselves
Be informed: take up mental health awareness training if offered

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) attempts to change how you think (cognitive) and how you act (behaviour). These changes can help you to feel better. CBT is a talking treatment that focuses on problems and difficulties that are happening in the here and now. It is a way of talking about how you think about yourself, the world, and other people, and how what you do affects your thoughts and feelings.

Coping with grief in the workplace can be challenging, and it’s essential for both employees and employers to create a supportive environment. Here’s our practical advice for employees coping with grief:

1. Communicate with your supervisor
Inform your supervisor about your situation as soon as you feel comfortable. Share any expected impacts on your work, such as potential absences or changes in productivity.

2. Know your rights and benefits
Familiarise yourself with company policies regarding bereavement leave, flexible work hours, or employee assistance programs. This information can guide you in making decisions about taking time off or seeking support.

3. Take the time you need
Grieving is a personal process that takes time. Don’t rush back to work if you’re not ready. Take advantage of any available bereavement leave and, if needed, explore other options like vacation or sick leave.

4. Utilise Employee Assistance Programs (EAP)
Many companies offer EAPs that provide confidential counselling and support services. Take advantage of these resources to help you cope with grief and navigate its impact on your work.

5. Create a supportive work environment
Discuss your needs with your supervisor and coworkers to create a supportive work environment. This may include adjustments to your workload, flexible hours, or temporary changes in responsibilities.

6. Consider professional counselling
Grief counselling can provide valuable support during difficult times. If your company offers an EAP or has resources for mental health support, consider reaching out to a counsellor who specialises in grief.

7. Take care of yourself physically
Grieving can be physically exhausting. Pay attention to your health by getting enough sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise. Taking care of your physical well-being can positively impact your mental and emotional health.

8. Gradual return to work
If possible, consider a gradual return to work rather than jumping back in full-time immediately. This can help you adjust and manage your workload more effectively.

Remember, grief is a personal journey, and everyone copes differently. It’s crucial to communicate your needs and seek the support that feels right for you. If your workplace has a Human Resources department, they can be a valuable resource in navigating these challenges.

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