We all know the physical symptoms of COVID-19, but one symptom we often overlook, especially in the workplace, is collective grief. Here’s what it is, and what we can all do to heal it.
Collective grief and COVID-19. Saying hello to the new normal means saying goodbye to the old.
There’s no denying that COVID-19 has inflicted deep wounds to all corners of our planet. We’ve borne witness to massive loss of life, long-lasting sickness, the destruction of many of our livelihoods, alienation of social networks, and our own sense of safety.
Society has tended to focus on the physical blows we have endured, but what’s less talked about is the impact that COVID-19 has had on all of us psychosocially.
Psychologists identify this phenomenon as collective grief. It can manifest itself in many ways: a profound sense of sorrow at a bygone past, stresses of the present, as well as anxiety about the future.
Many people are, obviously and understandably, facing individual losses, including illness and death, or loss of employment. But even those of us who haven’t lost anything as concrete are affected. We are undergoing a communal grief as we watch our work, healthcare, education, and economic systems deteriorate, as well as sense that we cannot fully protect our loved ones, be they children or elderly relatives.
Let’s equip the workplace to help heal our grief over COVID-19.
The pandemic’s trauma is a threat that, unlike the virus, can’t be beaten by a vaccine. It will linger far into the future, so employers need to face it as directly as any other business risk.
Crises aren’t always bad things, however. They can also galvanize creativity and commitment. Here’s what businesses can do to help their staff deal better with collective grief.
Acknowledge the challenges to your team – and take direct steps to overcome them.
Being an empathetic leader is more than giving a team member an extra day on an assignment. It also means being supportive when your employees have personal circumstances that take their focus away from work.
- Ask your staff what they need.
Have an open, candid conversation with your employee and ask them how you and the company can best support them. They may ask for extended time off, beyond what’s offered in their benefits package, or they may want to dive back into work quickly, to have something else to focus on. No matter what they express, try to use the resources you have to meet their needs.
- Understand work isn’t always a priority.
Growth and profit will always be key business drivers. But we’re in the thick of a global crisis, and we have to acknowledge it. The priorities of your team will shift away from KPIs and deliverables. We, therefore, need to focus on finding alternative solution so that our business operations aren’t compromised.
- Facilitate collective learning.
Organise group counselling and learning sessions. This will help your team recognise the different stages of grief and learn to overcome them individually and collectively.
It’s also important for employees to play their role in addressing this collective grief.
- Be upfront with your employer.
Let your boss know what you’re experiencing. Remember, they can’t support you if they don’t know what’s going on. Seek a mental health counsellor to guide you through the process, or speak to your employer about available employee psychosocial benefits. There are also many counselling groups available online. Whatever you do, don’t bottle up your emotions.
- Be patient with yourself and ask others to be as well.
Ambitious professionals put much value and joy into their work, so grief can be a tremendous shock, disrupting routines and progress. Be easy on yourself. Cut yourself some slack. Life will get back to normal, and you will naturally pick up where you left off.
- Take more breaks
When you return to work, add breaks to your daily calendar, where you can go for walks, write a journal, or do anything else that comforts you.
Remember that this too shall pass – even though we will never forget it.
Grief, personally or collectively, is a natural part of life. We will all unfortunately experience it. It’s important however to know that grief is people’s way of dealing with loss.
As the seven stages of grief tell us, from shock and denial to acceptance and hope, we will face it – and emerge stronger, even though the loss will always be with us.
Remember, we’re living this collective grief together. Let’s heal it together.
If you need support, advice, or counselling, please contact us on 0861 GOLIFE (465433) or SMS “Wellbeing” to 43821 or click here to visit the website for more information.
References: https://www.apa.org/news/apa/2020/04/grief-covid-19# https://www.fastcompany.com/90601410/7-tips-for-thoughtfully-dealing-with-grief-in-the-workplace https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/grief/understanding-the-stages-of-grief/