How To Get Through The Workday When You're Grieving For A Loved One
The alarm went off, and I pressed snooze, only to do the same thing two more times.
I managed to roll out of bed, mindlessly brush my teeth, shower and barely taste my breakfast. Suddenly, the clock indicated it was time to go to work.
Sometimes, the computer screen looked blank or just like a million molecules of color making up an image on my screen. Co-workers spoke to me, but most of the time, their voices sounded a dull drone.
Nothing quite made sense anymore. And that's when I realized I was barely functioning at work while I was grieving.
I was 23 when I started a new career, in a new city, while dealing with the loss of my mom.
Life came at me so quickly that year, but one of the toughest hurdles I had to jump was trying to function at my job while grieving. I use the word “function” loosely when describing the days and months following my mom's death because I barely did.
You do need to try to go on and accept the new reality ahead of you.
Meetings with clients were unbearable because I just wanted to burst into tears (which I did, at times) or just run back into my bed.
Colleagues would try to help me through the day, but I was a prisoner in my own emotions, and honestly, the thought of escaping was just as bad. I thought the cycle would never end, and I was right: Grieving never truly ends.
But at some point, you do need to try to go on and accept the new reality ahead of you. Here are five ways that'll make that journey a little easier:
1. Take time to yourself.
If I could relive this experience (even though the thought of that makes my heart hurt), I would have given myself more time to deal with the situation at hand.
Instead, I dove right back into work. I was too young to realize I really was not stable enough to look at spread sheets, make calls and hit weekly targets.
Unfortunately, like most 23-year-olds, I thought I was stronger than I actually was and that knew more than I really did.
In retrospect, I would have slapped my 23-year-old self for being so naïve, and I would have forced myself to take more time to process everything. Time may never completely heal this wound, but it will start the stitching process.
2. Embrace your emotions.
I cried loudly, silently, with people and alone. I cried because my love for her was deeper than the loss from her death.
Before that moment, I had only known what it was like to love her truly in the moment. But now, I had to love her memories and the way she existed within me.
Your emotions indicate where you are in the grieving process, so don't deny yourself the ability to feel everything you need to feel in those tough moments. You deserve that much. And suppressing those emotions will only intensify the pain later on.
Simply breathing is something I took for granted until I had to figure out how to function in the work place after a traumatic event.
If you feel like you can't breathe, take a second to yourself and just focus on inhaling and exhaling — nothing else. Trust me, when you're heavily grieving, it can be more complicated than it sounds.
The toughest battles can certainly be won, and sometimes, that battle is just to breathe. So keep fighting and keep breathing because you'll win this battle eventually.
4. Go easy on yourself.
My mom had only been fighting cancer for a few months, but the inevitable crept up on us much faster than anticipated.
Was I prepared to lose her? Fuck no. Did I know how to grieve? Fuck no.
People can attempt to explain what it's like to lose a loved one and then try to go back to work, but only you can know how you'll function when you have to create a new normal for yourself.
And unfortunately, you won't know this until the grieving process begins. Eventually I had to forgive myself for the outbursts, the anger and the breakdowns I experienced. I had to forgive myself for it all because I was going into battle blind, but I was still doing the best I could.
5. Accept it.
One day, I had to accept the reality of my situation. I never had to get over this loss, but at some point, I had to function as a productive human being.
Accepting what's happened and starting to move on doesn't mean you loved the person you lost any less or that whatever hurt you're experiencing has miraculously vanished.
But learning to move on does allow you to honor your lost loved one in the way they'd want. The biggest accomplishment is going forward as best you can, even when they're not here.