Returning to Work After a Loved One Passes: Eight Helpful Coping Strategies

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

When you are returning to work after a loved one passes away, it can be an emotional journey filled with uncertainty.

If the prospect of heading back to your workplace after loss feels overwhelming, you are not alone. Grief is a profoundly personal experience and assuming previous work routines can be tricky.

In this article, we extend a gentle hand to guide you through this challenging phase. Please read on for some valuable coping strategies for returning to work after a loved one passes on.

1.     Take Your Time

Don't try to rush through grief. Allow yourself the necessary time to heal emotionally before returning to work. Navigating the stages of grief takes time and the process varies from person to person. Acknowledging your feelings is the first step toward healing. There is no set timeline for bereavement; your well-being is what’s most important.

2.     Open the Lines of Communication

Reach out to your supervisor or HR department to discuss your situation. They should be more than willing to help make your transition back to work as smooth as possible. In the wake of loss, certain accommodations or adjustments, such as additional breaks or extended leave, can be very helpful.

3.     Add Flexibility to Your Schedule, if Possible

It is often best to ease back into your work routine gradually if that’s possible at your workplace. For example, you might start with a part-time schedule, shorter workdays, or a reduced workload initially, and gradually increase your hours as you feel you are able.

4.     Set Realistic Expectations

It is not uncommon for grief to affect productivity and concentration. Be patient with yourself and set achievable goals. Prioritize essential responsibilities and seek assistance if you need it. Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps can prevent feelings of frustration.

5.     Lean on Your Support Network

Don’t hesitate to rely on your support system, including friends, family members, and colleagues. Share your feelings and experiences with those you trust. Talking with caring allies can alleviate the weight of grief and offer great comfort.

6.     Manage Stress and Anxiety

Grief is often accompanied by heightened stress and anxiety. Routinely practice mindfulness techniques, deep breathing exercises, and/or meditation to help manage these emotions and stay grounded in the present moment.

7.     Set Boundaries

As you return to work, it is important to establish clear boundaries between your professional and personal life. Allow yourself time to grieve outside of work hours and communicate your needs for flexibility to your employer and colleagues. It is perfectly acceptable to take breaks when needed. A few moments of reflection during the workday can help you manage your emotions and return to your duties with renewed focus.

8.     Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help

If you find it too challenging to cope with your grief, consider seeking the guidance of a professional grief counselor or therapist. They can provide valuable tools and strategies to navigate difficult emotions so you can get back to work with greater resilience.

Returning to work after a loved one passes away is a deeply personal journey, and it's crucial to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Healing takes time but by implementing these compassionate strategies, you can successfully navigate this transition.

Please know that you are not alone on this journey. With time and support, you will find your way to healing and hope. Our caring staff is always here for you. Please reach out to us anytime.

About Vaughn Greene Funeral Services: For more than 25 years, Vaughn Greene Funeral Services has been providing a ministry of care to Baltimore’s African-American community. As a leading local, minority- and family-owned provider, we promise to provide our highest level of service and respect to families who entrust us to honor their loved ones. For more information about our funeral, cremation, memorial, repast, and grief counseling services, please call us at 410.655.0015 or visit us online at

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