Time to grieve?

When I re-started the blog I kept all of the content to what was going on immediately around me rather than trying to comment upon world affairs I was getting third hand from other people and the internet. Not only is it safer to comment upon things you know personally, it seems pointless (to me anyway) sharing my views of something remote to me.

I still hold that view however an article on the BBC news website struck a chord and I wanted to write something, so bear with me.

Called Grieve Leave it was an article about whether bereavement leave should be treated differently by employers than just an absence covered by a couple of days compassionate leave followed by using annual leave. Or whether an approach similar in nature to maternity/paternity leave should be adopted although the comparison they made with this rather baffled me.

I was very lucky in that when I rang my manager following hearing of my husband Mark’s death, I was told in round-about terms, not to come back until I was able to do so. Having had no experience of anything like this, I didn’t know any better to think that other employers might not be so considerate as mine were towards me.

Reading stories about people being hurried back after less than a week from the death – again assuming that what is printed is factually accurate – well that shocked me a lot.

I can safely say that I remember only a small fraction of the first month after Mark’s death, and these are transient glimpses rather than a steadily improving picture, although of course it did improve as time wore on. I remember what I referred to as ‘white noise’ in my mind being there a lot of the time – like some form of electrical interference that was in the foreground of my brain, blocking out everything else.

In fact I went back to work 6 weeks after Mark’s death. It was good to get back into a routine but even after this time my concentration was in tiny bits all over my head – the white noise wasn’t a constant feature like it had been, but it had it’s moments even after this time. Trying to read a document on the computer about something relatively trivial was replaced with a sensation of trying to decipher hieroglyphics off an ancient scroll!

Outside of work, with bell-ringing, the amount of concentration I needed to give to tasks that before I could probably do without consciously working through them, was massive.

It was a bit like somebody metaphorically whisking the contents of one’s brain and then one trying to operate again.

So all in all it’s scary to think that some people believe that bereavement is something that doesn’t have an impact on their staff. To bring someone back too early would be counter-productive in my mind. They’re unlikely to make good decisions because their concentration is shot, they’re less tolerant to stress because they’re already overloaded emotionally and it’s likely to prolong the impact because they’re not dealing with it.

So what is the best way to deal with something like this? Compassion, communication and dealing with people as individuals. It is horrific to go through and what made it harder is that at the time I didn’t know anyone who had been through the experience themselves. When I did discover a colleague who had, it really helped me to start to understand the emotions I was feeling because we talked about things we both had experienced.

Here endeth the mutterances.

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