Facing Grief & Loss Together: How Managers & Leaders Can Create a Supportive Workplace

Critical Topic Discussion Group Series 2 Topic 2: Facing Grief & Loss Together May 20, 2020

In this discussion session, leaders came together to discuss how to create a supportive work environment that holds space for the variety of losses staff may be experiencing from Covid-19 changes (loss of certainty, freedom, financial security, etc.). Keynote speaker Laura Jones, Grief Recovery Method Specialist®, covered the following learning objectives in her 15 minute presentation:

  • A comprehensive definition of grief
  • The many types of grief and loss
  • Challenging our belief system around grief
  • Indicators that employees or family members may be dealing with grief and loss, examples of behaviours and pursuits one might turn to in order to numb feelings
  • Strategies for HR, leaders and managers to provide support to employees who may be struggling
  • Additional suggestions for processing feelings related to grief and loss at this time

Following Laura’s presentation, leaders discussed their insights on the topic.

Lisa Arora from Get The Picture created this graphic recording of the session:

Facing Grief and Loss Together

Key Takeaways
  • Grief is a normal and natural reaction to loss; it is also the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change to a familiar pattern of behaviour. Grief is not a mental health condition that needs to be treated.
  • We have been taught how to acquire things, not what to do when we lose them.
  • Most of us were taught much of what we know about grief from well-meaning parents, family members, role models, etc., who were taught by their parents, family members, role models, etc.; however, what we were taught may have included some myths or misconceptions leading to a belief system that might be inaccurate and unhelpful to us and others.
  • There are no set stages in the grieving process, grief is individual and unique just as all relationships are individual and unique.
  • Don’t compare losses – it isn’t helpful and could be potentially harmful – we all feel loss at 100%.
  • Be mindful of what you say to somebody who is grieving – consider your words carefully – so you don’t inadvertently make an insensitive remark – i.e.: don’t feel bad, you are young you can have other children, or he/she lived a long life, you should be grateful they are in a better place today.
  • Family, friends, colleagues or co-workers may hesitate to share their feelings because they fear being judged. It is important to remember it isn’t your job to fix anybody, but rather, it is important that you listen with your heart, (be a heart with ears). Don’t analyze, criticize or judge them.
  • Consider various ways you might be able to support an employee who may be struggling as the result of a loss or a change that produces grief – from EAP referrals to specialized services to community based resources, and/or for options within the workplace to help ease the transition back to work or to accommodate any cognitive or physical limitations one might have as they move through a difficult or painful period.
  • Practice self-care; find an outlet to express your feelings – sharing with another who will be a heart with ears, somebody who will not criticize, judge or analyze you. If you don’t have someone who you can do that with safely, journal about how you are feeling so you aren’t holding sad, painful or negative feelings inside.
Discussion Outcomes
  • Journaling is a good way to release negative energy.
  • Try to stay healthy by eating well, breathing, exercise, pray, meditate. Do things to help stabilize and ground yourself.
  • Companies know there is a need to provide support to staff but if the staff don’t come forward, how do we bring it to the forefront? People aren’t comfortable talking about it. They need to self identify their feelings.
  • Group leaders meet bi-weekly and then meet with their staff as a check in on how they are doing. Make an effort to have those touch points so people don’t feel isolated.
  • Don’t be in a rush to get back to the way things were, if things are working this new way, leave it be.
  • Attendance is dropping on daily chats. Zoom fatigue is getting worse, we need new resources to help.
  • HR can reach out to employees as well so it is not always coming from the managers.
  • People are getting busier and more used to working this way so some don’t feel the need for the check-ins. Determine who needs them and who doesn’t.
  • There are no wrong reasons to feel grief, do not judge others for their grief. To them it is 100% grief, even if you don’t think it is a good reason to be upset.
  • Make calendar reminders to reach out to others so it doesn’t get put on the back burner.
  • Performance issues may be related to grief but difficult conversations still need to happen. Be more sensitive to their grief when having the conversations and provide additional resources to help them get through.
  • Words matter, choose them carefully.
  • You too can have ‘one of those days’ and give yourself permission to just be miserable for a day. Treat yourself to some self care.

Below is a recording of Rachelle Lee, President of Einblau & Associates introducing the topic followed by keynote speaker Laura Jones, Grief Recovery Method Specialist® . Laura offers workplace presentations and workshops for staff to deal with grief and loss. For more information, contact her at: Laura Jones Consulting

The Next Discussion Group Session on Critical Topics in a Crisis is:

The NEW Realities of Management and Leadership – Share and gain insights with other managers and leaders about the pivots and shifts they’ve have had to make in managing their teams.
Wednesday May 27 9:00 am PDT | 10:00 am MDT | 12:00 PM EDT

Special thanks to Lisa Arora from Get The Picture for creating our visual graphic recording of this session. Get The Picture captures a group’s key ideas – in text, images and colours – in the moment, during a facilitated group discussion. Get The Picture is now serving the world virtually and visually for:

  • Designing effective, interactive virtual meetings.
  • Visually facilitating virtual meetings.
  • Visually recording virtual meetings with a facilitator of your choice.

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