Many people find going back to work within a short time is helpful as it provides a distraction and a familiar environment. But if you need longer, talk to your boss about taking time off work or the possibility of flexible working for a while. 

Speak to your line manager or supervisor to let them know what has happened. You might find it easier to email them rather than talk over the phone or face to face. Make sure you also tell them your preferences for letting colleagues know.

It will also be helpful to let your manager know when you think you will be up to talking again and how frequently. This means that you will be contacted at a time that will suit you, rather than your boss.

If you can find a safe space at work where you can close the door and be by yourself, this might be helpful at moments when you feel that you're not coping.

Time off work for bereavement

You might well need to take time off from work to arrange your loved one’s funeral and other practicalities.

You have the right to time off if a dependant dies. This includes a spouse, partner or civil partner, a parent of a child under 18. There’s no legal right for you to be paid when taking time off for bereavement, but some employers might offer pay. You can find out more about this from Acas .

Employee Assistance Programme (EAP)

Some larger organisations offer an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to help their employees deal with personal issues that might affect their psychological health and wellbeing, and their ability to do their job. This should include giving support to people who have been bereaved, including getting counselling.

Speak to your supervisor or line manager to find out if your employer offers access to an EAP. If they’re not sure, contact the human resources department. These schemes are independent and confidential, so the details of the support you receive shouldn’t be revealed to your employer.

Normally you don’t have to pay for this help – it’s provided because your employer wants to keep its workforce healthy and able to work well.

Talk to your manager

It is important to take time off to process your feelings as well as organising practical things. Try not to feel guilty about taking time off from work and share your feelings with your manager, if you possibly can.

Also let your manager know dates for important things such as the funeral or a memorial service so that they can plan for your absence. This will also let them gain a greater understanding of your circumstances and so support you as well as they can.

How grief might affect your work

As with every other area of your life, grieving for a loved one is likely to have an impact on your work. You might feel sad, tired or anxious. You might feel angry; you might not be sleeping well. You might have trouble concentrating. All these things will affect how you work.

You might find that you:

  • become overwhelmed with thoughts about the person who died
  • find tasks that you used to be able to do quickly are now taking much longer or if something doesn't go quite according to plan you might not deal with the situation as well as you would have prior to your bereavement
  • are hit by a sudden wave of grief.

These are all normal thoughts or behaviours and the best way to deal with them is by talking to your manager about your feelings and to put plans in place for helping you.

On the other hand, you might find work a welcome distraction and then have feelings of guilt that you’re not thinking about your loved one. Try not to feel guilty about this. Maybe chat to some of your colleagues, if you feel comfortable doing this. It can help them to understand how you’re feeling and you may well derive support from them too.

Related pages

  • What is grief?: there's no right or wrong way to grieve and here we look at how the experience of grief is unique to each person.
  • Looking after yourself: advice for looking after both yourself and others following the death of a loved one.
  • What are the emotions of grief?: we look at some of the thoughts and emotions that you may feel during a time that can be both very difficult and upsetting.

The EPiC Resource Centre is kindly sponsored by Cleenol: working for a cleaner, safer, kinder world.