STOP THE ACTION
The first step in dealing with a death in an institution or workplace is to stop
the normal activities and reschedule so that employees can come together to share
their thoughts and feelings. Depending on the organization, this moratorium will
take differing forms. In a school it is relatively easy to call all of the staff
and students together in the auditorium, causing a complete halt in all business.
However, in a business where salespersons are out of the office and everyone has
a varied schedule, this will be much more difficult. On the other hand, many businesses
have adopted the practice of actually closing for a day to honor the deceased. While
this is a valuable mechanism, it precludes everyone getting together to share.
FOCUS TO FEEL/TALK/SHARE
One of the most healing endeavors is to make time to express, process and share the
feelings that are evoked by grief. By stopping the usual activities, we provide an opening
to allow for sharing. It is often useful to invite an outside facilitator to help lead the
group(s). Getting together will have to be an individualized process, especially in larger
institutions. Logically selected groups may meet separately after everyone is brought together
in the total group. Or if it’s not possible for all staff to be together, then a series of
smaller meetings may be the start, leading up to a larger ceremony or remembrance.
USE DIFFERING FORMATS
Because people function differently to start with and then they grieve in their own style,
it is important to offer as many different formats as possible. For example, some people find
a group very intimidating and would not be able to express their thoughts and feelings. Thus
they would need a one-to-one situation. Some people find ceremonies healing, while others find
them unappealing. In one school where several students had been killed in a car accident, a large
assembly was held immediately to make the announcement and get initial reactions. Then students
went to their homerooms where they could talk with a familiar teacher. All teachers were asked
to either cancel their usual lesson or relate it to the event. Desks were set up in the hallway
where parents, social workers, pastors and others were stationed. Several private offices were
available for one-to-one intensive sessions, and several small group rooms were staffed for
drop-in discussions. Thus, a large variety of formats was offered and students could use whatever
was best for them. The wide range, from casual hallway chats to serious private sessions, proved
very useful. This service array was kept in place for several days.
Ceremony and ritual can be very healing for most people. The ceremony can be as simple as having
everyone take time to sign a card that goes to the bereaved family or it can be actually planning
and conducting the funeral or memorial. In addition, periodic remembrances offer opportunities to
process thoughts and feelings that arise. Anniversaries are useful marker points and can be utilized
PROVIDE MANY OPPORTUNITIES
We need to remind ourselves that one chance to grieve isn’t enough. Some employees may be in shock
and not be able to take advantage of an event. So the more opportunities and repetitions that we can
offer, the more effective will be our healing. By offering as many formats as possible, and as many
varieties of activities as possible, we can support a diverse group of workers.
UTILIZE DIVERSE HELPERS
Wherever possible it is effective to use a wide spectrum of helping persons. Once again we need to take
into account the uniqueness of people and their emotional/behavioral responses. Some people may feel
perfectly at home with a cleric while others either lack any religious background or even blame God
for their trauma. Some people may be comfortable spilling out their deepest emotions with a volunteer
while they recoil at the very mention of talking with a psychotherapist. And we are all very complicated,
so that we might feel comfortable unburdening ourselves with a volunteer, yet reserve certain issues for a
clergy person and other issuers for a social worker.
The above process is designed to allow the workplace to take responsibility for those issues that deeply
affect its constituency. The process provides the maximum individualization, while still encouraging people
to share what they can with each other. Taking into account our individual uniqueness does not require us to
carry our burdens alone. Sharing emotions and memories can be very healing.
The Center Expands Again! Please join us in welcoming Megan Kelleher, LCSW who comes to us with wonderfully empathic presence, and a broad range of helping skills. You can learn more about her by visiting our Therapists section or clicking on this link.
Community Walk for Grief Support: Celebrating 25 Years of Transformation
The Center celebrated its 25th year anniversary with a fund raiser walk in Rogers Park, Chicago on June 4. [read more]
New interview on ideas for what to say and do to support the bereaved, by the Center's Meg Kelleher, LCSW.[read here]
Pain Bonds Us - I feel close to you when you let your pain show. A protective shield inside me slides away.[read more]
Private Practice: Dynamic Psychotherapy and Bereavement Counseling (CEU)[read more]
You Know Therapy Is Working When . . . - You feel increasingly uncomfortable with the status quo when it is causing harm. [read more]
Ideas About Mourning - For the griever the future feels shattered; everything hoped for is broken and gone/ lost like a broken mirror. [read more]
Myths and Realities of Mourning - Regrettably, our society maintains a host of unrealistic assumptions and inappropriate expectations when it comes to the work of grief and mourning. Here are some myths to consider:[read more]
The Difference Between Grief and Mourning - It is critical to know the difference between grief and mourning. Both processes are there to help the bereaved face the reality that their loved one is gone and then to slowly begin to accommodate to that fact. [read more]