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How to Return to Work After a Death

Returning to work after the death of someone close to you can be difficult. The comments of well meaning co-workers may reopen wounds, and you may find it difficult to control your emotions while you try to keep up professional appearances.

Planning for your return to work can smooth the transition and give everyone the opportunity to express sympathy and thanks.


6 Steps to Return to Work After a Death

Work After a Death

1. Appoint a friend and co-worker as your information liaison.

When the death occurs, have one friend at work spread the news about the death along with the funeral plans so you don’t have to take calls and go over the details repeatedly. Ask the same co-worker to tell others when you plan to return to work


2. Stop in for lunch before returning to your regular work schedule.

When you make an appearance for a lunch or meeting a few days before you return to work, you give your co-workers a chance to express their sympathy and you a chance to grieve with them without the pressure of getting back to business.


3. Send out an email upon your return to thank your co-workers for their support and to alert them of your return.

This allows you to interact with your co-workers without having to thank each one individually and revisit your grief over and over.


4. Make lists of important deadlines and meetings.

Your mind may be distracted. Return to your regular routine and keep on task by creating lists so you don’t miss important meetings.


5. Allow yourself time to break down.

Even with your emails and visits, your co-workers may still want to support you by asking how you are doing. You may feel a lot of stress, so give yourself a break by going out for lunch or shutting your office door when overcome by emotion.


6. Talk about the death but don’t dwell on it.

It’s good to talk about your grief and loss, but you don’t want to make it the center of your interactions with your co-workers. Respond to questions briefly, but while at work, try to concentrate on work.


Tips and Warnings

  • Take all your allotted bereavement time. Even if you feel like you are dealing with your grief well and want to get back to work, take the time off to spend with family and friends to alleviate your grief and get you back on track sooner.
  • Don’t give out all the personal details of your special person’s passing. Too much discussion about it at work will upset you more and may make co-workers uncomfortable.


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