Revisiting Bereavement & Grief in the Workplace

The Dying Well Initiative’s Trend #5 for the year 2022 was,
“A refocus on bereavement leave policies in workplace bereavement.” 

Better late than never, we recently hosted a webinar exploring this important topic, which is more pressing than ever following the global pandemic.

With the significant loss and grief that was wrought by COVID-19, alongside population aging, there has been a significant shift in the understanding and support of the grieving process. In the home, the workplace, and even at different levels of government, we can see advocacy for time to properly process the grief and trauma that comes with loss. The direct impact of the pandemic has created this awareness and opened the door for a deeper and more progressive conversation about grief.

On January 10th, 2023, Moderator Liz Eddy, Co-Founder of Lantern, guided a conversation between members of an esteemed expert panel, including:

  • Z. Colette Edwards, MD MBA is a gastroenterologist with additional training in translational health disparities at the NIH and health and wellness coaching at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. She is the former Corporate Medical Director of Associate Health and Well-Being for Humana’s 53,000 employees. Colette is the Managing Editor of the Wharton Healthcare Quarterly, a published author, and is currently co-authoring a book slated for publication later this year, Navigating Your Healthcare Journey: Lessons Learned to Get the Care You Need and Deserve, which includes a chapter on preparing for the end of life.
  • John Toomey – CEO/Founder of Wide Awake Wellness and Chair of the GWI Workplace Wellness Initiative
  • Alica Forneret – Panelist. (she/her) is an educator, speaker, and consultant dedicated to creating new spaces for people to explore grief and grieving. She is the Founder and Executive Director of PAUSE, an organization focused on supporting Communities of Color through grief and end of life.
  • Joyal Mulheron – Panelist. Joyal Mulheron is the founder of Evermore, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing bereavement care for all children and families.

Among the many poignant moments of this conversation, I want to highlight one point made by John Toomey, which is that feelings are feelings. They aren’t rational, they can be powerful, and the only way to resolve them is to let ourselves experience them. Oftentimes when we witness someone who is stricken by grief, our instinct can be to cheer them up, when really, this can be counterproductive and signal to the other person that it’s not okay to feel the way they’re feeling. The approach that is called for instead is the simple act of sitting with someone as they experience their grief–just being present. It might feel uncomfortable to not be taking further action or feeling like we don’t know what to do, but that’s okay, too. We need to get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.