Those living in Sea to Sky country weave together with commonalities that always create a bond when tragedies occur.
We were reminded of that when Ellie Reinecke’s 2011 death came into focus again. The 24-year-old was struck by a taxi and killed on New Year's Eve. Letters to local newspapers covered everything from a mother seeking answers for her daughter’s senseless death to recommendations that people take responsibility for their own behaviour.
But there are no rights or wrongs here. There are no winners or losers. When it is all said and done, there is simply grief — a grieving family, grieving friends and a grieving community. And make no mistake about it — as a community, we feel grief deeply.
On Jan. 16, Pique Newsmagazine’s G.D. Maxwell said it brilliantly and I won’t even endeavour to top that. But every year this corridor loses people and it pulls at our heartstrings, affecting our community as a whole. How we deal with that grieving process can make all the difference.
The crass reality is that grief costs the workplace, but when handled compassionately, it costs less than when poorly handled. Research conducted by SuperFriend, an Australian health foundation, shows that if a workplace handles grief in a thorough and compassionate way, there is reduced leave taken, fewer errors on the job, lower staff turnover and increased, productive teamwork.
That process starts with employers understanding that although emotions felt are unique, the grieving cycle encompasses phases of shock, denial, anger, despair and finally, acceptance. Some may not experience every emotional stage, while others might linger longer in one stage than another.
It also helps to recognize the symptoms of grief. Some of these include irritability, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, lethargy and a feeling of uncertainty. Physical symptoms may include fatigue, changes in appetite, increased drug or alcohol use, forgetfulness and poor concentration.
Just as the symptoms are unique with every individual, so are an employee’s needs during a time of loss, but there are some standards that research has shown are important.
Flexibility Studies showed that employees felt valued most when their managers listened and made reasonable concessions to their unique challenges, whether granting more time off or finding available resources for them.
Acknowledgement Avoiding mention of the loss was hurtful and any gesture of acknowledgement was meaningful to employees. That could be in the form of a phone call, a card or flowers.
Permission Granting permission to the employee to do what they needed to do in order to deal with their loss ultimately enabled them to re-engage with work without it being a burden to them.
Being asked what they need While all of the above is important, nothing is a substitute for asking the person in a caring way what they personally need and how you may be able to provide that.
Privacy Within our small communities, it’s imperative to respect privacy and confidentiality while maintaining that you are available if they ever need support.
Lastly, preparing proactively for grief in the workplace should be done through policies that might include some of these elements:
Information about the return to work
Support that the workplace can offer employees
Health and safety considerations
Allowances for cultural diversity
Above all else, healing takes time and it all comes down to creating a safe and supportive environment.
At Lighthouse Visionary Strategies, Cathy Goddard offers business and life coaching, workshops and the popular Open Forum speaker series events. She is founder of Lighthouse Mentor Network, providing mentor groups to local professionals. Cathy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.