How to Get Back to Work After Dealing With a Personal Tragic Event

The day I found out that my mother passed away, I couldn’t imagine going back to work. I was in disbelief, I was in shock, and I immediately had to learn how to do things without her guidance. But even though work was the last thing on my mind, I contacted all of my editors and told them that I needed to take time off for two weeks. Little did I know, I was so naive to how quickly two weeks would pass and how much more time I actually needed. But Time doesn’t stand still for the ones who need it to the most. Instead, you have to compromise with Time and make the most of what she gives to you. You may beg and plea to just be still, to just be in the moment, but Time doesn’t wait for no one, and that’s where you try and learn how to “schedule” your grief in between your everyday life.

However, if you’re currently going through a traumatic event, just know that you’re not alone. Going back to work while going through grief seems like a real life oxymoron. How am I supposed to manage work when I can’t even manage my own thoughts and emotions?

Hopefully, you have a job that you love to help you easily transition back into the work, but if you don’t — don’t worry, I rounded up a few ways on how you can get back to work after dealing with a personal tragic event.


1. Communicate with your superiors

While this might be an uncomfortable moment for you, it’s imperative to be open and direct with your boss once you come back to work. He/She may ask how you’re doing, and feel free to respond short and sweet. However, this is the time to voice the reality of your situation and tell them what you need at the moment.

Because people cope differently, what you decide to tell your boss about your workload is completely up to you. Do you want to bury yourself in projects so you don’t have to think about the tragedy, or do you wish to receive less work so you can slowly get back into the groove of things? Either way, your boss will appreciate your candor. Don’t feel guilty for asking for less work, the worst thing you can do is not be honest during this sensitive time and overload yourself with more than you want to handle. 


2. Address the elephant in the room with your colleagues (if you want to)

Most of the time, your fellow colleagues just want to make sure you’re okay, but they may feel weird about bringing up your personal tragedy because they don’t want to make you sad at work. Don’t overthink this. There are plenty of ways to communicate your grief to your coworkers if you choose to do so. You can request to only talk about it outside of work, or for your coworkers to send their condolences through email so you can check and answer on your own time. Remember, it’s completely up to you how you want to set the tone for this situation. Do what makes you feel most comfortable and try to take it day by day.


3. Take time for yourself

Unfortunately, most of us are forced to go back to work way before we’re ready to. We have to pretend everything’s okay and push ourselves to complete the tasks just to get through the day. However, just because you have to head back to work early doesn’t mean you can’t take some time for yourself at the office. Shut down your computer and take a walk when you feel like you need a break. Call a loved one if you need a vent, or request to work from home if being around people has become too overwhelming.

Right now, your wellness and mental health need to be a top priority. If you’re not feeling your best (or even half of your best) then you won’t be able to be there for others or for your work — and that’s okay. If you need some time to recoup, be transparent with your boss. The more upfront you are with them, the better they may be able to understand the situation.


4. Give yourself more time to complete assignments

As much as we’d all love to quickly get back into the groove of things after a tragic event, sometimes things just don’t work out that way. Instead of waiting to work on an assignment right before it’s due, give yourself extra time to complete it so you know you’re giving it the loving it deserves. When you go through grief, you never know exactly how any day will go; one day you may be perfectly fine, while you may experience something completely different the next. So, just to be safe, it’s best to slowly chip away at your assignments/projects one day at a time. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and allow you room to be compassionate with yourself when you’re having a rough day.


5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Let me be clear: you don’t have to be Superwoman during this time. It’s absolutely okay to not have your things together. You’re probably going through something most people haven’t fully experienced yet, and if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed with your workload, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your coworkers and superiors should be understanding during this time and will be happy to help out any which way they can. Remember to take baby steps and be kind to yourself so you don’t add any more stress into your life.  


6. Be patient with yourself

Do not wish for the destination when you still haven’t begun the journey. Give yourself the type of compassion that you would give your friend. Don’t feel embarrassed if something triggers a meltdown or beat yourself up if you have to give up a project halfway through. Have patience and trust in yourself that the grieving process you’re going through will take time. Give yourself permission to live a slower life, to heal at your own pace, and to enjoy the little things. The greatest gift you could give yourself is the ability to heal, grow, and to connect with the memory of your loved one during this time.

If you may be depressed and need someone to talk to please call NDMDA Depression Hotline at 1-800-826-3632


Have you ever experienced a loss and were required to go back to work? What were some ways that helped you go back to work?