For many of us, the COVID-19 crisis has led to grief or even dredged up long-forgotten and/or unaddressed grief. Learn how to support affected employees.

| one year ago

Pandemic-Induced Grief

For many of us, the COVID-19 crisis has led to grief or even dredged up long-forgotten and/or unaddressed grief. Learn how to support affected employees.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all experienced loss in different ways. Whether it’s the loss of a loved one, normalcy or simply daily routine, these losses have affected us – and some, more than others.

As normalcy returns, some employees may be able to shift back to a pre-pandemic mindset. That said, others may still be wrestling with pandemic-induced grief or even past trauma that has resurfaced as a result of pandemic stress.

The way in which affected employees deal with grief depends upon their ability to recognize and understand their feelings. As an employer, here’s where you can help. Providing employees ample access to mental health specialists can make all the difference during these difficult times.

Unconscious Grief

Currently, some of your employees may be experiencing unconscious (or hidden) grief. This grief surfaces when an individual is unable to recognize the connection between their symptoms/behaviors and the loss they have experienced. This state of grief causes individuals to project painful feelings from the past onto people, places and things in present time.

As an employer, you should look out for signs of team members struggling with hidden grief. Here are a few warning signs to note:

  • Sudden angry outbursts 
  • Chronic negativity 
  • Becoming easily triggered to intense emotional reactions or under-reactions/shutting down 
  • Recurring or long-lasting depression 
  • Self-mutilation and self-harming 
  • Caretaking behavior 
  • Excessive guilt 
  • Constant crying or feeling weepy 
  • Body/health-related issues, soreness or stiffness 
  • A desire to self-medicate 

This list is not all-inclusive. Because unconscious grief often surfaces unrecognized by the individual, you should be sensitive when addressing your concern.

If you notice an employee displaying symptoms of unconscious grief, please seek help through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP).

Conscious Grief

When an employee acknowledges their sadness, this is known as conscious grief. Recognizing these feelings is the first step of coping and enables positive growth for the individual. From here, your employee can emerge stronger and more resilient. This type of progress involves:

  • Embracing the situation
  • Not shutting down or ignoring grief
  • Avoiding over-indulgence, beating oneself up or self-medication

When an affected employee recognizes their grief, here are a few ways you can help them:

  • Advise the employee to put a mental boundary around this time. While the pandemic can be stressful at times, it will not last forever.
  • Encourage them to maintain daily routines and establish new ones. Some ideas for this may include morning meditation, going on walks or reading.
  • Maintain safety and order in the office. Be sure to keep your work environment clean and pleasant at all times.
  • Support your team in searching for silver linings. What’s going right in the world? In the office? In their lives?

If one of your employees is showing signs of grief, our mental health providers are available and eager to help. For more information on Atrium Health behavioral health services or to request an appointment, please contact our helpline at 704-444-2400 or 800-418-2065.