“God sent you to help me!” Roberta said as I entered her office. It was quite coincidental that I stopped by her office just as she was receiving word that she would have to put her beloved dog to sleep. As you would expect, she was crying. And, she was working very hard to convince me that she was OK.
As I observed Roberta working so hard to pull it all together I felt both disturbed and angry. I was disturbed that she was doing what has become a norm in our society. If you lose a loved one, especially someone as insignificant as a dog (I’m being sarcastic), it’s expected that you get back to “normal” as quickly as possible. Why? So other people won’t feel uncomfortable being around you when you are grieving.
I felt angry because that special woman has a right to be human and grieve, even though she holds a leadership position. In fact, her sharing her loss with others could really make a positive difference. It would give others permission to be human too!
As I was thinking about this situation, I thought about the effect of grief on productivity. What is the cost of not grieving in work settings? When you don’t take the time to grieve, to allow the release of sadness, and to honor the person or animal who is no longer part of your life, that grief stays bottled up inside. It’s strength doesn’t dissipate. It is carried as a weight of unexpressed feelings. It takes energy to carry that weight, energy that is not available for efficiently getting things done.
The grief, even when it has gone unconscious, is also very distracting. When you carry grief it’s difficult to get and stay focused on anything for any length of time.
Imagine how much more productive you could be if you routinely took a break to grieve privately when you experience a serious loss instead of immediately getting back to being “normal.” Imagine how wonderful it would be if you could grieve and not worry what others will think of you when your sadness shows.