Archive for February 14th, 2012

If you didn’t get to tune in to our first Blog Talk Radio Show, please check out the podcast.

Tonight we had a caller, a social worker, who was concerned about the staff at her agency. She works in a residential center and finds that her staff is dealing with patient’s deaths more often and wanted to know how she could help.

So, here are some tips for dealing with grief in the workplace that I shared with her:

  • First get in touch with those who are affected by the loss – and let them know clearly what you know.  If you don’t know something for sure, don’t make things up but be honest with them.
  • Second, people need a space where they can share how they feel about this news.  They need to be affirmed that their feelings aren’t wrong.  Professionals and administrators can help staff with the differences between appropriate feelings and inappropriate actions (like starting arguments, slamming doors, etc.).
  • After that, help staff, a call to their EAP counselor or it may be letting them know what kind of open-door policy you might have in the next few weeks to be supportive of them.  Don’t take on the role of a counselor if it’s not your role.
    • Don’t debrief a group by yourself.  Make sure there is someone else to who can help attend to the safety of staff that might need to leave the group.
    • Make sure that there is time for people to talk and share what’s going on with them.
    • Dropping news and then expecting that life at work will get back to normal isn’t realistic.  And being aware of your expectations about productivity is really important…
    •  people often describe feeling hazy, fatigued, and out of step with time after learning of loss and we need to be open to these things happening.
    • Next, know what your agency’s policy is about bereavement leave or what they do around donations, taking up collections, if they give time off to attend a funeral.
    • If the loss is sudden like a resident or staff member has completed suicide, know what resources there are in the community.  It might help to have someone trained in critical incident stress debriefings to be on hand to help out.  So know your limits and know who can help supplement what you can do.
    • If you work at a college, a church, and other groups (girl scouts) think about what they would do “if”.  We think that dying only happens to the elderly or the ill and then we are totally shocked and unprepared when loss does happen.  Don’t wait until your group or organization is planning a 5-6 memorial service before you come up with a plan.

These are just a few ways that professionals can help staff learn about a loss or an impending loss.

An upcoming post will talk about what agencies and groups can do to create simple memorial services for the workplace.

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