Working through Grief

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are living through a time of unprecedented change and loss. The pandemic has affected every area of our lives. It has affected our families, social engagements, work routines, finances, political realities, and faith perspectives. All of us have lost our patterns, many of us have lost our work, and some of us have lost loved ones.

It’s a time for dying, and a time for living. Finding ways to navigate this paradox is our current task. We’re looking for ways to connect who we are with who we were and who we are becoming. We’re seeking to make our way in a world not of our choosing but one thrust upon us.

We are grieving. In our grief, we redefine ourselves. By drawing upon our faith, reflecting on past experiences, communicating with loved ones, and navigating work, we find the way forward. Together, we weave a narrative that makes sense within, and in spite of, the chaos.

We are also surrounded by grief. To ease the way, we seek to understand the grief of others. Sometimes it looks like what we expect grief to look like: sadness, anger, despair, exhaustion…. But, sometimes it looks different than we expect.* It looks like anxiety, control, depression, disengagement, distraction, manipulation, numbness….

Rather than ignoring, discounting, or leaving these emotions and behaviors unexplored*, we meet them with compassion, patience, and purpose. While some of our organizational cultures might discourage them, we take this window of time to nudge our relationships and work cultures toward them.

To nudge them toward compassion, we…

  • Ask colleagues and staff members about how the pandemic has affected them—personally and the others they care about
  • Think about what we need and what we can do to help
  • Take time to recognize and grapple with work-related losses (e.g., lay-offs, plant closings, limited resources, restricted services, etc.)

To nudge them toward patience, we…

  • Allow people who have lost loved ones to approach work in a way that helps them process their grief… through working less or more
  • Encourage people who have been working from home to transition back in ways that reduce extremes and allow for arrangements to be made
  • Are open to modified or new ways of working

To nudge them toward purpose, we…

  • Find the silver lining associated with work-related losses, looking for opportunities in the wings
  • Name what we found to be life-giving amidst sequestering, then claim it as essential and find ways to integrate them into a new work-life balance
  • Discuss ways our workplace can support what is life-giving, taking time to organize it into work processes, build it into products, and integrate it with our service

Finally, we claim leadership excellence… for and from ourselves. Practically, we commit to clear communication, support for the expression of emotion, closing rituals, and ways of rebuilding with moral purpose*. Spiritually, we seek guidance and truth. Reminding ourselves to draw from the eternal Light that is available through our hearts, we find and become light in the darkness.


*Hazen, M. A. 2008. “Grief and the Workplace.” Academy of Management Perspectives, 22(3) 78-86.

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