#39 How I Cope with Workplace Death and Dying
Show notes: Episode 39
How I Cope with Workplace Death and Dying
A topic that comes up often in my work is death and dying. There’s no doubt it can be difficult to talk about and process, and we all have our own way of dealing with grief and finding closure. It is important to find what works best for you, so in this episode I want to share some ideas, strategies and an affirmation that have really helped me.
Talking about death with families can be challenging, particularly if they are having a hard time recognising that their loved one is dying. Grief is natural and death does not break the bond of love, but we can never totally prepare for death. Until you experience it, it is impossible to imagine the process after a death. Our professional experience and ability to have the difficult conversations at this time can be a great help.
Death in the workplace impacts us too – it can be difficult to remain focused on work and prepare the room for next resident, particularly if you shared a connection with the person who has passed. Sometimes we are there when it happens, other times we may not find out until later. In any case, having processes in place to deal with death and dying are essential. Find what works for you. It’s okay to do it your own way, but we all need processes in place to help us cope and find closure.
Like the birth of a child, death has its own timing. It can be obvious that it is approaching, or it can come suddenly and be a shock. Even if someone has been in aged care for a long time or have been in poor health, death can still be surprising. Not knowing when your last conversation will be, even when in palliative care, can create a fear of saying goodbye. It is hard to know what advice to give families, as we don’t know if the person will live for three days or three months.
In any conversations about death and dying, I suggest you avoid starting your sentence with ‘At least …’ – it is far more helpful to acknowledge that it is hard. Avoid relatability at this time too, instead, ask what would be helpful right now. Ask if they want to talk about their loved one and show an interest in who they are and what they were like.
It is also important at this stage to have a process for managing your own loss and grief, particularly if you knew them personally. However, understand that every death will affect you differently. Some will feel okay, others can come as a surprise. The difference is not so much about the predictability, it is more about your connection to the person and what that relationship meant to you.
An affirmation that has changed my view of death and dying, and also my experience of life, is:
In my grief, I have changed
To me, this expresses that the grief and loss I have experienced in the workplace has changed me. Through my connections with those who are no longer with us, I have learned so much and I am no longer the same person.
When someone close to you dies, you have a new normal waiting at the end of your grief. Workplace loss and grief will change you and your routines too.
I encourage you to reflect on your own processing of death and dying within work and personally. Identify routines and habits that help you find closure. It may be noticeable to others or quiet things done internally, without the outside world knowing the impact it has on you. Do it your own way.
In this episode you will learn:
- Why it is difficult to have conversations about death and dying
- Fears that might be holding you back from saying goodbye
- The one sentence to avoid when talking about the death of a loved one
- How to process your own grief and loss in the workplace
- An affirmation that has changed my view about death, dying and life.