As we walk the path of grief, we look for a passage to help us understand how to comprehend the complexities of anguish and how to channel our emotions into a constructive solution. Logically, we know waking every morning with a constructive plan for the day will help us walk the path of grief. However, our bodies often tell us the pain is too new or too strong to actually execute the plan.  The workplace offers an outlet to exercise intellect, logic and creativity, allowing our bodies to take a break from our personal grief and channel our emotions to constructive accomplishments.

The holiday season offers a time to reflect on the past year, to take the pulse of where you are physically and emotionally with your recent loss, to determine the status of the relationships you have maintained since the loss, to analyze your accomplishments in the workplace and to determine what is in store for you in the coming new year.

As a bereaved person, the reflection is one of delight and sadness as you adjust to your new life without your loved one.  The delight is felt as you calculate your progress; the sadness is overwhelming due to the reality of your loss.

Since grief has no calendar, as we approach the new year, we continue to count the days, weeks and months since the loss. We reflect on each new milestone that comes along (birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, graduations, first steps, promotions, new jobs, etc.) as we try to adjust to our new life style, schedules and commitments.

We often find ourselves pondering goals for the new year – whether it is to become more productive, exercise more, organize aspects of your life, find a new job, or become more involved in the community, the objective is to “jump start” the new year with excitement, purpose and a plan.

As a bereaved person, we set “resolutions” and “goals” for the new year, we want to continue to understand the complexities of grief and how it effects our daily existence at home and at the workplace.  Rather than creating goals that are measured by a start and end date, why not try to find continuity between your pre-bereavement and post-bereavement lives, make a commitment to your growth and reach out to your community.  While they are still measurable accomplishments, the true goal is to weave the loss into your daily life and channel your energy down a positive path while trying to lessen the overwhelming feeling of “where should I start “ as I enter the new year.

  • Continuity – Grief is often defined by life before and after the loss.  We don’t like to think about where we have been as we no longer have that part of our lives. We don’t like to think about where we are now as it is heartbreaking. We don’t like to think about where we are going as it is truly the unknown.  So as the new year approaches, try to find permanence and stability in your home and work life by continuing to work through your grief while intertwining the loss with your daily life.  This can be accomplished by finding the balance between maintaining the connection to your deceased loved one while building strength in both work and home.  The end result is the uniting of yesterday, today and tomorrow into a new future where there is a place for the bereaved and your new found emotions.
  • Commitment – Remain committed to yourself and personal growth.  While the loss is a setback emotionally and physically, your growth through the experience will blossom.  Make a list of several areas of your life that you will dedicate your time and energy. It may be in relationships with family members, a project at work, new interests or cleaning out a closet.  Find the necessary enthusiasm and vow to complete the task.  The feeling of accomplishment will provide a new-found desire to tackle the next task and continue your personal growth.
  • Community – Often when we experience grief, we have a tendency to want to enter a cocoon.  It is hard to express the ever-changing emotions surrounding grief and the feeling that no one could possibly understand what you are experience.  While both of those thoughts are true, reaching out to your community for support will allow you to connect with others who are walking or have walked similar paths.  Being a part of a community or group of people provides a connection offering strength.  Whether it is a support group to help you with your personal grief, an organization that you can connect to by volunteering your time and expertise or a religious group the feeling of being alone will diminish.  Being able to share your thoughts provides an opportunity to open yourself and release anxiety relating to your sorrow which ultimately will help you to work through your grief.

We are all in the mind-set that continuity, commitment and community are a part of our daily life, but we often lose sight of what our surroundings offer when we are overwhelmed with emotions resulting from a loss.  The workplace continues to provide a platform for you to find continuity in your life, forge ahead with commitments and allowing you to be part of a community.

Each new year presents challenges that we will all endure but also an opportunity to reflect, grow and reach further than the previous year.  Best wishes for your next year.

 

Rachel Blythe Kodanaz 2011

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Rachel Kodanaz

The idea of writing and speaking on Life Changing Topics was a direct result of my experiences while grieving the unexpected loss of my husband in 1992. At the time, I was a member of management in a large corporation and a mother of a two year-old. The challenges while overwhelming me drove me down a path of rebuilding and finding “the new normal” for my family. After spending several years recovering and helping other grievers, I began assisting companies who were dealing with grieving employees. I published Grief in the Workplace Handbook and a booklet titled Grief in the Workplace. My efforts led to me writing a column for ten years titled “Grief in the Workplace” for Living with Loss (formally Bereavement Magazine), speaking nationally on the subject and appearing on Good Morning America. As I continued my journey to pay it forward to other grievers who are suffering losses, I joined HeartLight Center, a grief center in Denver, Colorado. I was instrumental in developing the programs and infrastructure and over the years held the position of Executive Director, Program Director and was a member of the Board of Directors. In addition, over the last 7 years since the center opened, I facilitated many groups, including Baby Boomer Widow Group, Loss of a Parent and Facing the Mourning. The research and development of the Facing the Mourning program provided me with the opportunity to not only support those who are grieving the loss of a loved one but also support families who are “anticipating” a loss whether it is a terminal diagnosis or form of dementia. As I continue to provide support for those who are experiencing a loss, I maintain my column for Living with Loss, help workplaces implement grief programs and speak nationally on grief-related topics.

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