At a Glance: Coping with grief at work

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — The sudden passing of Dave Goldberg, the popular Silicon Valley executive and husband of Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, touches a subject most workers probably don't consider until they have to. In the U.S., many companies offer a few days' paid leave after the death of a close family member. But grieving is a process that takes much longer than that. Experts and those who have dealt with loss offer a few coping strategies:


While death of a family member is not a happy subject, it's good to have an idea of what your company benefits are ahead of time so you are not scrambling to figure it out when you are in the middle of dealing with a loss. Besides paid bereavement leave, some companies offer counseling services or help with travel to funerals.


Many people return to work sooner than they are ready, either because they have to make ends meet or because they think getting back into a routine will help them cope. Still, experts recommend taking time to yourself, as much as you can, even if this means working from home or working part-time for a while, or easing off a bit and not going 100 percent on your daily tasks.


What may go further than formal benefits is speaking with your boss and asking if you can get any flexibility easing back into work. This could include talking about working from home or getting help with projects.


If you are having trouble with daily tasks or feel overwhelmed, seek counseling, either through work or elsewhere. Some people dealing with sudden loss, for example, may develop post-traumatic stress disorder, which can make work daunting, if not impossible. In these cases, you may qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.


"I'd advise people not to make assumptions about how people grieve," Grimes says. "The day my grandmother died, I found out first thing in the morning and went to work anyway because I knew I'd feel awful regardless and would rather be busy than sitting at home. I think a couple of my co-workers found that strange since I was really close to her."

Offer to help out if only if you mean it, and don't worry if you don't know what to say. A simple "I am so sorry," and listening, will do.