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Taking Time For Grieving Mark Swartz, M.B.A. M.Ed.

About the Author

Mark Swartz, MBA, M.Ed., is Canada's Career Activist. His insights reach millions yearly as the Career Advisor, as author of the best seller "Get Wired, You're Hired," also as a professional speaker and coach on career/work issues. A former Toronto Star careers columnist, Mark's advice is forthright and practical. For Canada's biggest directory of free career articles, and for personalized coaching, please visit


My husband passed away suddenly a month ago and I returned to my job last week. I am finding it helpful to be occupied during the day with work. However I guess I am still in shock and every so often find myself breaking down in tears, even during a meeting this morning. Everyone at work is trying to be so understanding and I really appreciate their efforts. I want to continue working full-time (I need to financially as well as emotionally), but I am worried about how I am handling things. Can you offer any advice?

Teresa J, London, Ontario
Dear Teresa,

My sincerest regrets on your difficult situation. How it must weigh on you each and every day. I can only imagine how strong you must be to be able to go back to your job and take on a full work load. Fortunately, you say that your colleagues are being understanding. This will go a long way toward making your circumstances more manageable.

Teresa, I almost get the sense that you are worried about showing your emotions at work. It is very natural for you to be feeling very sad and perhaps vulnerable right now. These are parts of the grieving process that you are going through. Everyone around you realizes this and so they are likely to show you a great deal of extra consideration and kindness. So you shouldn't be all that concerned if you find yourself crying, withdrawing or feeling lost. On the other hand you may discover that you are drawn more than ever to surrounding yourself with people and keeping super busy.

There are no rules for this particular type of situation. Hopefully your employer will accommodate your needs over the next while. This might include flextime hours so that you can spend more time with your family and loved ones if required; extra time off (either paid or unpaid leave) to take care of the matters resulting from the loss of your husband; and reduced workload if necessary until you feel ready to fully re-engage and take on your complete responsibilities at work.

You may also want to investigate your Bereavement Leave entitlements ( as well as your Employee Assistance Program ( allowances, if your employer provides for this type of anonymous, free counseling should you feel the desire to reach out.

One piece of advice, I hope that you will consider is to not keep your emotions bottled up inside. You are experiencing a traumatic set of circumstances and your mind/body will be reacting in ways that you may find somewhat unpredictable. As such, maintaining close contact with your network of friends and loved ones can help you feel less isolated. And, asking for assistance from professionals or others, is expected.

So I would like to wish you the best of luck, Teresa. What you are going through is an extremely heavy burden. However by being open with your employer about your needs, by asking them what their expectations are of you for now and the near future, and by ensuring that you have a safety net of friends, family and professionals, you will give yourself the best chances of pulling through well over time.


This column is dedicated to the memory of my good friend, J. L., who leaves behind a loving wife and beautiful young daughter.

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