Life cannot be compartmentalized. Life and loss happen at the same time that you are expected to fulfill obligations at work. Here are some tips for dealing with challenging life events and remaining productive.
The challenge of maintaining emotional stability at work while going through a divorce, death or other major loss is called a “dual process” – on the one hand, you are navigating your loss, and on the other hand, you are getting back into your life and its obligations.
It is important to attend to your loss. If you try to push your loss under the rug and not deal with it, this can lead to delayed grief, a form of complicated grief. In order to prevent this, it is important to have support – reach out to others who have gone through a similar loss. Join a support group. Get emotional sustenance from your spiritual community. Get professional support from a counselor specializing in grief and loss. Express your feelings to a trusted friend or co-worker.
Grief and loss can make us question things we always believed in, and journaling or other forms of expression can help us create meaning. Take care of your physical health. Grief is extremely stressful in all areas, including the physical. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and eating healthily. See your doctor to support you in maintaining your physical health.
If you attend to your physical, emotional and spiritual health, you will be more successful in re-entering the workplace and maintaining emotional stability on the job. Don’t forget, though, that you aren’t perfect and that “grief spasms” can come without warning. If you get sad or angry and start to cry or snap at a co-worker, excuse yourself. Take a two-minute break. Breathe in cool, nourishing air, and breathe out stress and tension. Roll your shoulders and neck as you breathe in this way. Feel your feet grounded firmly on the earth. It may be helpful to confide in a trusted co-worker, and ask him or her to remind you to take those mini-breaks.
It is important, though, to maintain a balance regarding how much you share about your personal situation at work. If you feel that your feelings around your divorce or other loss are interfering with your job performance or if your situation requires you to take time off from work, you may want to explain to your boss — in professional and non-emotional terms — what is going on and that you are going through a difficult situation and you are confident that you will get back to peak performance shortly.
It is also good not to confide in too many work colleagues about your personal life – keeping a boundary between your personal and professional life is important in all circumstances. Additionally, work can be an “oasis” where you can just do your job and put your feelings aside for a while. We all have our own balance point, and it is important to be mindful when you are tipping to the side of expressing too much about your personal life.
If you are unable to get the emotional stability to do your job, whether you are feeling overwhelmed by your loss, are finding that the pain of your loss remains fresh with little relief, are having intrusive thoughts that are preventing you from sleeping, having negative beliefs about yourself or other difficulties, a therapist who specializes in grief and loss can be extremely helpful.