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Holding Space for Grief in the Workplace

Holding Space for Grief in the Workplace

I’m sitting in my home office this morning feeling the presence of my dad all around me. Today is the second anniversary of his death. I made sure to leave today open on my calendar, free of appointments. I wasn’t exactly sure how I would feel. Last year I remember thinking I should stay busy and took some meetings. I regretted that decision. This year I knew I needed to hold space for grief.

I didn’t fully understand grief before my dad died. I had lost people before — my Nana died when I was 21 but she had suffered from dementia so it felt like she had already been gone for years by the time she passed. My dad died unexpectedly. He fell in his garage, hit his head, and was found the next day.

Grief is a funny thing. It is always with you. Some days it’s heavier than others for no apparent reason. Other days when you expect it to be with you (like I do today) it can feel lighter. I am able to sit here, in my beautiful library, and be grateful for his lessons. Today, I welcome it.

Grief puts things into perspective. It puts a lens over the way you see the world and allows you to interpret things differently if you let it. It has expanded the universe for me. Little things mean a bit more.

A story for you:
When I was younger — maybe around 5 or 6 years old — I remember being super excited about waking up before my parents. I would sneak into their bedroom and crawl into bed to snuggle. I’d make sure to wake my dad up and ask him if he’d tickle my back — it was my favorite! He’d sometimes fall back to sleep and I’d have to nudge him awake so he would start up again. I remember the smell of the sheets, the morning light coming in from the windows, the sound of our family dog snoring from our feet, and the feeling of being completely content.

That feeling of complete contentment came to me this morning when my (almost) 5 year old son snuggled up close to me, tapped me on the arm, and asked me if I’d tickle his back. He doesn’t ask often — most of the time he prefers not to be touched and to sleep above all of the covers — but today of all days he asked if I’d tickle his back. The moment was not lost on me. My dad is here, still guiding us, if we’re willing to listen.

Our society doesn’t allow space for grief. We brush it aside and tell each other, “It gets easier with time.” or “He’s in a better place now.” We don’t understand that it doesn’t get easier — it just changes shape.

Grief doesn’t always have to come with death, either. I remember feeling it when Addison finally went to daycare full time and I wasn’t always the one to witness the “firsts.” New moms and dads can experience grief in the workplace just for the fact that they aren’t home snuggling their babies. I’ve grieved over the ending of books before. (This may sound super lame, but it’s true. I can miss characters in my stories as much as I can miss old friends. Fellow readers will understand.) People grieve the end of the holiday season. New brides can grieve over the fact that the planning and anticipation of their big day is over. Elections — ugh — the loss of a new hockey rink can bring some feelings of grief. There are just so many ways to grieve. It’s a feeling that many try to avoid. I’ve learned to embrace it.

Any form grief takes, we need hold space for it. Embrace it. Bring it to the light and acknowledge it. I’m proud of the fact that I allow for this in my business. Brand Yourself offers mental health days if needed — no questions asked. I needed one today. Today I’m holding grief close to my heart. I’m holding the space for grief.


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