Cop­ing with the death of a co-worker

Lesotho Times - - Jobs & Tenders -

Our co-work­ers are very much like an ex­tended fam­ily. We spend most of our wak­ing hours with them, forg­ing spe­cial bonds of trust and friend­ship that are un­like our other re­la­tion­ships.

As a re­sult, it’s not sur­pris­ing that a co-worker’s death can be dif­fi­cult to deal with — es­pe­cially if you were close to the per­son or if the death was un­ex­pected.

You may feel anx­i­ety and guilt if the death oc­curred in the work­place or your last in­ter­ac­tion with the per­son was un­pleas­ant.

And even if the co-worker’s death came af­ter a pro­longed ill­ness, you may still ex­pe­ri­ence shock and de­pres­sion when you hear the news.

Emo­tional im­pact How we cope with a loss de­pends on many fac­tors, from our per­sonal be­liefs to the pres­ence of other stres­sors in our lives.

You may find that thoughts of the de­ceased make it hard to fo­cus on work for a short while.

Or you may find it dif­fi­cult to get back on track, re­sult­ing in mis­takes that can dis­rupt an or­gan­i­sa­tion’s func­tion­ing.

Dur­ing your daily drive to and from work a pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with a co-worker’s death may cause dis­trac­tions that could eas­ily lead to a car ac­ci­dent. Sim­i­larly, in a pro­duc­tion or man­u­fac­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment, a lack of con­cen­tra­tion can present safety haz­ards for those op­er­at­ing equip­ment, per­form­ing in­tri­cate op­er­a­tions or mon­i­tor­ing prod­uct qual­ity.

In more ex­treme cases, a co-worker’s death may cause you to be­come tense and ir­ri­tated. Those feel­ings can make an al­ready stress­ful work en­vi­ron­ment worse and cre­ate new prob­lems else­where in your life. Phys­i­cal im­pact A strong emo­tional re­sponse to a co­worker’s death can have a di­rect and of­ten neg­a­tive in­flu­ence on your phys­i­cal health, too.

Long-term feel­ings of deep sad­ness can dis­rupt your eating and sleep­ing pat­terns, rob­bing you of the en­ergy you need to move on with your life.

Grief can also cause peo­ple with chronic health con­di­tions, such as arthri­tis or high-blood pres­sure, to de­vi­ate from their pre­scribed diet, med­i­ca­tion or ex­er­cise reg­i­mens, with se­ri­ous con­se­quences for their health.

Pro­longed grief fre­quently leads to de­pres­sion, too. De­pres­sion has been linked to many other health con­cerns, such as heart dis­ease and stroke.

In one study, for ex­am­ple, de­pres­sion in­creased the risk of di­a­betes by 17 per­cent.

In another study, re­searchers found that de­pres­sion boosted women’s risk of stroke by 29 per­cent even af­ter they ac­counted for other stroke risk fac­tors.

Try­ing too hard not to think about a co­worker’s death has its own con­se­quences. Those who at­tempt to lose them­selves in their work risk burnout, a state of in­tense men­tal and phys­i­cal ex­haus­tion.

Some may turn to un­healthy be­hav­iours to cope with their sad­ness such as overeat­ing, drink­ing al­co­hol or tak­ing pre­scrip­tion drugs.

What you can do Grief is a nat­u­ral process that re­quires time. You may find these sug­ges­tions help­ful:

Share your feel­ings. Your other co­work­ers may be ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the same emo­tions you are. Mu­tual sup­port can help ev­ery­one get though the griev­ing process.

Take ad­van­tage of em­ployee as­sis­tance pro­grams, if avail­able. Ex­pe­ri­enced coun­sel­lors can of­fer sup­port and struc­ture to help in­di­vid­u­als and groups come to terms with a loss and make ap­pro- pri­ate plans for me­mo­ri­als and ges­tures of con­do­lences to fam­ily mem­bers.

Plan ahead. If you are a man­ager, work with your hu­man re­sources spe­cial­ists to es­tab­lish pro­to­cols for re­spond­ing to a worker’s death.

Is­sues to con­sider in­clude shar­ing in­for­ma­tion, han­dling per­sonal ef­fects, al­low­ing time off for funer­als and re­as­sign­ing space or equip­ment.

How a psy­chol­o­gist can help If you con­tinue to feel over­whelmed, con­sult with a psy­chol­o­gist or other li­censed men­tal health pro­fes­sional who can help you learn how to man­age your grief more ef­fec­tively.

He or she can help you iden­tify prob­lem ar­eas and then de­velop an ac­tion plan for chang­ing them.

Prac­tic­ing psy­chol­o­gists use a va­ri­ety of ev­i­dence-based treat­ments — most com­monly ther­apy — to help peo­ple im­prove their lives.

Psy­chol­o­gists, who have doc­toral de­grees, re­ceive one of the high­est lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion of any health care pro­fes­sion­als.

On av­er­age, they spend seven years in ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing fol­low­ing their un­der­grad­u­ate de­grees.

— apa.org/help­cente

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