When a loved one dies, the natural response is grief. This sadness and pain can feel overwhelming. It’s often difficult to continue with everyday life. For many people, returning to work is not an option; they need time to mourn and grieve. Unfortunately, in the United States, there is no law giving workers paid time off to attend a funeral or spend time with family members who are grieving. Most workers only receive three days of unpaid leave. Let’s look at bereavement leave and what you can do if you must work while still grieving.
What is Bereavement Leave?
Bereavement leave is time off from work that an employer grants to an employee who has experienced the death of a close family member, usually a spouse, child, or parent. While some companies offer paid bereavement leave, no federal law mandates it.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a bereavement leave policy’s average length is three days.
Bereavement Leave in Other Countries
Other countries have much more generous bereavement leave policies than the United States. For example, in Canada, employees are entitled to up to 104 hours (two weeks) of paid leave if they lose a spouse or child. In the United Kingdom, workers can take up to two weeks of paid leave following the death of an immediate family member.
While we hope for the US to change bereavement policies and give more time for loved ones to mourn, we somehow must continue with our life. Continuing on means finding ways to handle work while feeling the sadness and loss that is so common when a loved one passes away.
Cope with the Loss of a Loved One While Working
When a loved one dies, the natural thing to do is to want to be there for them. To attend the funeral, say goodbye in person, and support the family as they begin to cope with their loss. But what if you have to work? What if you can’t afford to take unpaid time off from your job?
Three days’ leave is barely enough time to attend the funeral of a loved one, much less grieve the death of a close family member. With all of the stages of grief, you may find yourself trying to work while your mind is trying to sort out the reality of your loss.
So what do you do if you must grieve while working? Here are some tips:
- Talk to your employer or supervisor about your needs. Some may allow flexibility to help you, especially if you have been with the company for a long time.
- Let your colleagues know what’s going on and ask for their understanding
- Take advantage of vacation days and sick days. If you have vacation or sick days accumulated, you may be able to use them for bereavement leave.
- Make use of flex time and telecommuting. If your job allows it, consider working from home or adjusting your hours to give yourself some extra time to grieve.
- Talk to a counselor. If you are having difficulty grieving while working, talking to a counselor can be helpful. They can provide support and guidance on how to deal with your grief.
Grieving is a process that takes time. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself the space to grieve in whatever way works best for you. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to grieve. If you are struggling to cope with your grief, don’t hesitate to seek help.
Benefits of Taking Time Off to Mourn
While it may not be possible to take a lot of time off work to mourn, there are benefits to taking some time off. Taking even a day or two can give you the time you need to attend the funeral, say your final goodbyes, and begin the grieving process.
Some of the benefits of taking time off to mourn include:
- Allowing yourself time to grieve
- Attending the funeral or memorial service fully present, without thinking about your work obligations
- More energy and focus when you do return to work
- Reducing stress levels
- Avoiding burnout
Final Thoughts on Bereavement Leave
No one ever wants to deal with the death of a loved one, but unfortunately, it is a part of life. And while the United States doesn’t have the most generous bereavement policies, there are ways to cope if you must work while grieving.
Taking some time off work to mourn may not be possible for everyone, but it can be beneficial if you can do so. It can allow you to grieve without the added stress of work obligations and give you the time you need to say your final goodbyes.
If you struggle to cope with your grief, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. There are many resources available to support you through this difficult time.
Resources for Grieving Families
No one should have to grieve alone. If you or someone you know is mourning the loss of a loved one, there are resources available to help.
Transitions GriefCare is a trusted community resource offering bereavement support to people coping with the death of a family member, colleague, or friend. Their professional staff provides short-term counseling, support groups, workshops, and other services designed to compassionately meet the needs of adults, children, and teens seeking to address the unique challenges of grief and create a path toward healing.
Grief support is available at no cost to residents of Chatham, Durham, Franklin, Granville, Harnett, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties.
We Can Help
At Renaissance Funeral Home and Crematory, we understand that the death of a loved one is a difficult time. We are here to help in any way we can. Our funeral planning services help you and your loved ones remember the good times together. We create memorable events to bring your family and friends together in your loss and find ways to cope. Find out how we can help you create a beautiful event for your loved ones to celebrate the life that passes on.
Contact us today with questions or to set up a time to tour our facility, including our new state-of-the-art cremation tribute center. We hope to help your family whenever you face the need.