The festive season is upon us—Christmas parties booked, secret Santa names drawn—but amidst the joy, there’s an often unseen struggle that demands our attention: grief.
This article brings attention to the exacerbating factors faced by individuals grappling with bereavement during this time of the year. It emphasises the crucial role that employers play in supporting grieving employees throughout the festive period.
The Overwhelming Reality
Grief is a universal experience, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 employees at any given time. However, during Christmas, a season traditionally associated with joy, the weight of loss becomes especially heavy for those who are grieving.
To gain a deeper understanding of the support needed during this time of year, our charity, Suicide&Co, initiated a survey and sought valuable insights from our community. The response was significant, with over 200 individuals who have experienced bereavement by suicide sharing their perspectives and experiences.
They conveyed that grief is frequently intensified in the workplace in the lead-up to Christmas due to various factors, including:
- Increased volume of social events, from company parties to client entertaining
- Burnout from meeting family and friends’ needs alongside work deadlines
- Dark, cold weather restricts outdoor activities
- The emphasis on happiness, which often amplifies feelings of sadness,
- The constant query, “What are you doing for Christmas?”
Identifying Helpful Strategies
To address these challenges, our community identified helpful workplace strategies that they could communicate to their manager:
- Communicate the need for flexibility with their manager in advance
- Allocate themselves dedicated time for grief
- Prioritising and planning their self-care in December
- Asking for flexible hours to enjoy outdoor activities during daylight
For leaders, People/ HR teams, and managers, creating a safe environment is paramount.
Leading by example, encouraging open dialogue, and facilitating the easy expression of needs during challenging times are essential components.
The Importance of Communication
“Communication was the main thing I needed—just a check-in to say ‘hope you’re doing okay, and a reminder to take your time’. People just avoided the discussion.”
Survey Participant, Jessica, 35
What our community found most supportive from their employers in the lead-up to the holidays was:
- Acknowledgement: “This time of year must be difficult for you”
- Direct questions: “What can I do to support you at this time of year?”
- Options: Offer opt-out or flexibility for company events in December.
- Support: Offering additional support services and resources in the lead-up
- Normalising; Acknowledge that this time of year might be difficult for some of us in company internal communications
Acknowledging grief during the holiday season is crucial for a compassionate workplace. Organisations can support employees by fostering open communication, providing participation options, and creating awareness mindfully. Strategically utilising events like Grief Awareness Week (Dec 2nd-8th) offers a structured space for providing supportive resources and talks to help employees navigate the holiday season.
If you’re keen on supporting your team during this time, consider sharing Suicide&Co’s free support webinars during Grief Week.
Together, let’s keep talking and bring a bit more brightness to this holiday season, offering solace and understanding to those who need it most.
About the author:
Zoe Blake, is the Organisation Support Director at Suicide&Co, a charity founded in 2020 that provides crucial support to those who’ve lost someone to suicide. With nearly 6 years working in employee mental health benefits, Zoe’s mission is to provide comprehensive support options to all employees, fostering an environment where they can bring their full selves to work and thrive.
Beyond its core support services, including specialised counselling and a helpline, the charity extends its assistance to organisations navigating the challenges of supporting employees dealing with suicide-related bereavement or coping with the loss of an employee to suicide.
Suicide&Co’s organisational support is comprehensive, offering guidance to HR teams, from educational company talks to bespoke incident response plans.
For more information, we encourage you to reach out and get in touch with us.
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