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I am worried about returning to work after my father's death!

by Paul V. Johnson

My father died two and a half weeks ago. I am due to return to work on Monday. I am worried about returning to work but am conscious of my responsibilities there. What if it gets to be too much for me? I am worried about having too much time off work, but I don't want to make it harder for myself in the long run by not taking "time out." Everybody says I should be ready to go back by now. I too feel that I should, but I am frightened of returning to "routine."

Dear Reader:

I am sorry to read about the recent death of your father and hope that your employer is aware of how such a significant loss could affect your work. There is no one response to loss; so, hopefully, your employer will allow you some freedom in your work.

I would encourage you to return to work with the attitude that you will do as good a job as you possibly can. Don't expect too much of yourself and realize that you most likely will not be able do all the work you did prior to your father's death. We need to make adjustments in all areas of our lives following such a significant loss, and this includes the world of our work.

You are the one who ultimately will evaluate this, but "routine" as you call it can in some ways be beneficial to a grieving person. The structure of a work situation can get a person back into a schedule that is often disrupted following a loss. Maybe that will be the case for you as well. So, as you return to work tomorrow, I hope you do so knowing that you should not expect too much of yourself. Realize that feelings of loss may come over you from time to time and that little things can trigger such responses, but keep in mind that these reactions are normal. Do what you can on the job, communicate with your employer as to how things are going, and before long you will be able to return to your previous level of productivity.

Best wishes,

Paul


Paul V. Johnson, MA, is a consultant and trainer for business, industry, and educational institutions on issues related to loss and grief. He was formerly an Associate Professor of Sociology at Bethel College(MN) and Director of Aftercare Services for the Bradshaw Funeral Homes in the Twin Cities area. He has made presentations at the national conferences of major professional caregiving associations and is a member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling.