• Dr. Emi Garzitto

Managing Grief in the Workspace

Grief is the byproduct of caring about something. You cannot be sad about something leaving, dying, or failing unless you have invested some large piece of you. So that makes grief the necessary bedfellow of risk, passion, love and commitment - attributes every workspace needs.



Wikipedia describes grief as, "the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or some living thing that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, grief also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions".


Grief is the byproduct of caring about something. You cannot be sad about something leaving, dying, or failing unless you have invested some large piece of you. So that makes grief the necessary bedfellow of risk, passion, love and commitment - attributes every workspace needs.


It is easier to talk about the grief's partners - we love to showcase success, examples of risk going well, or love growing strong, or the happy committed employee. But we have to help these employees expect, practice and work with grief because if you are living a full life, if you are fully participating in your workspace, you will experience grief.


Grief is a practice. Our cultures work very hard to hide grief. I remember when I was very young going back to Italy to visit my extended family, funerals were public and the community participated. The culture embraced death as a collective. We are missing the collective spaces to allow grief to be practiced as a public act.


And it is also a solitary experience. When I typed in 'grief' to look for an appropriate photo for this post, I was surprised by how many photos were of grief shared in solitude. Without question, staff may need space or solitude to process grief. The solitude must be countered with a collective response.


How can we help build skillsets for managing grief?

  • Expect grief - talk about it, add it to the mental health and resilience conversation. Link it explicitly with its natural partners.

  • Provide outlets for managing grief - EAP programs, counselling support, skilled HR

  • When grief shows up at work, consider creating collective spaces or rituals.

  • When evaluating failure and loss, include a social emotional section in the pre mortem. How can we build resilience when staff experience failure and loss?

It is not a one size fits all solution or action plan but the explicit way in which workspaces manage grief can have massive consequences on the long term health and wellbeing for all the members of the workplace community.


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