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Why We Need to Talk About Grief and Support in the Workplace

Death and dying are inevitable aspects of life, yet we often shy away from discussing these topics. This is particularly true in the workplace, where we spend a significant portion of our lives. However, a lack of understanding and stigma around grief can make it difficult for people to cope with the loss of a loved one while trying to maintain their professional life. To address this issue, Dying Matters Awareness Week, which runs from May 8th to May 14th, is encouraging open conversations about death, dying, and grief in the workplace.

Outdoor Portrait (Envato Elements)
New data from Dying Matters reveals that half of those surveyed used annual leave for bereavement leave, and 44% believed that the bereavement leave offered was not sufficient.

These figures highlight a concerning trend where people feel unsupported and unable to properly grieve in the workplace. The stigma surrounding grieving and a lack of understanding about what it means to be ill and dying are significant factors that can make it difficult for people to cope with life's challenges.

The impact of workplace support on coping with grief cannot be underestimated. The stories of Emma, Lucy, and Ellen, who shared their experiences with Dying Matters, demonstrate the importance of workplace support when dealing with the loss of a loved one.

Emma's husband was a Royal Marine who passed away from oesophageal cancer. Despite working until two weeks before his death, her workplace supported her every step of the way. She was able to manage the emotional toll of his passing and now runs an organization that helps people deal with the administrative stress of losing someone.

“When I lost my husband, I didn’t realise how much it would affect me and so much in my life. It was hard to grieve and look after the kids – but my workplace was amazing, their support and understanding of the changes I needed to make at work to be able to keep moving forward was vital. My passion is now helping people with the admin side of bereavement and illness, so we can all be better prepared for death.”
Emma Gray

Lucy worked for Cancer Research UK while being her father's primary caregiver. The charity supported her flexible work requirements to manage his care and provided support when he passed away. She has since established an internal Grief and Bereavement support network. Similarly, Ellen worked as a palliative care nurse and was left to support her husband alone when he had only weeks to live.

"When my Dad died in 2020, I had been his primary career for 4 years. I was fortunate to have a manager who was very supportive with the flexible requirements I needed around work to support me caring for him and having time off when he died.
“However, returning to work I realised this wasn’t the same for all employees, therefore I decided to set up an internal Grief and Bereavement support network. T
The network provides a safe space to talk about death, dying and grief in the workplace – giving those who have been bereaved the chance to connect, and offering line managers and colleagues a host of resources they can use to support employees returning to work following a bereavement."

Lucy Dennis

Ellen worked as a palliative care nurse, who was left to support her husband on her own as people assumed she knew how to cope, and access help and support. The hospital even left her to her husband when he only had weeks to live.

“Because of my role as a specialist palliative care nurse, some people just expected me to know how to cope, access help and ask for support.
"They just assumed that because I dealt with death at work, I’d be able to manage it at home. My immediate team was very supportive, but I wish more people had offered support."

Ellen Thompson

Dying Matters Awareness Week emphasizes the need to create a compassionate society where people who are ill, caring for others, or grieving a loss can receive support both at work and in their communities. We need to have open and honest conversations to ensure that workplaces are adequately equipped to provide support and understanding to their employees dealing with grief. This includes providing sufficient bereavement leave, flexible work requirements, and access to resources for employees returning to work following a bereavement.

To achieve this goal, we need to start the conversation about death and dying in our communities. Dying Matters Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to do this. As Imogen Thomas, Dying Matters Campaign Manager notes, "We need to create an open and compassionate society, where people who are ill, who are caring for those around them, or who have lost someone close to them are properly supported - at work, at home, and in their communities." Let us take the initiative to get involved with Dying Matters Awareness Week and start the conversation about why it matters to have the right support in the workplace.

Help us by getting involved with Dying Matters Awareness Week - start the conversation with friends and family, with your company or in the community. Search 'Dying Matters' or visit to discover more.


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