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How To Recognise The Signs Of Bereavement In Staff


As you would imagine, the team at Ashes Memorial Jewellery are more attuned than most to the signs of distress due to bereavement.  Time may have passed, and your routine returned, but life has not moved on for the individual experiencing grief; the pain still sits with them.

We thought it necessary to share some of the signs of bereavement, which may help you to support staff as they work through the ongoing emotions of loss.

Emotional symptoms of grieving.

In the weeks following the loss of a loved one, it is likely that an individual will display visible emotional signs of grief.  Although tearfulness is an understood emotional reaction, others may be difficult to link to the grief the individual is feeling.

You may notice increased irritability in the individual, where small stresses become disproportionate.  This irritability may also present as bitterness or anger.  They may be numb or detached, and you are struggling to reach them when talking.  It is likely that they will feel unable to experience or show joy and that there is a preoccupation with the sense of loss.

These emotional symptoms should be expected in the days, weeks, and for those who are particularly close to us, months after the loss.  However, if the feelings do not fade over many months, then this may represent a problem that needs professional support to address.

Physical symptoms of grieving.

The response to grief may not show through emotions.  Some people are competent in the masking or repressing of deeply held emotions.  However, our bodies tend to find it harder to repress the outward demonstration of the turmoil we feel.  Therefore, someone experiencing grief may present with digestive problems, constant tiredness, headaches, chest pains and sore muscles.  It is likely that many of these physical symptoms are a response to the extreme effort needed to hold in or mask challenging emotions.

Short- and Long-Term Effects of Grief.

The short-term effects of grief are often easier to spot and accept.  The individual may struggle to come to work and may have no interest in social gatherings.  However, the long-term effects of grief can be far more troublesome if left untreated.  Prolonged and complicated grief will likely need the intervention of a counsellor to prevent it from developing into a mental health issue.  Many cases of addiction are perceived as a direct consequence of unresolved long-term grief.  Drug and alcohol addiction can be the clearest sign that an employee needs support with feelings of grief.

Is this a grief management problem?

The management of grief can be a problem when it is prolonged or complicated.  Signs of a grief management problem include depression, suicidal thoughts, or a lack of capacity to complete daily tasks. Lengthy or complicated grief disorders are considered mental health issues and require intervention by a professional.  The acute feelings of grief should fade over time, and if it doesn’t, then this is problematic and impairing the life of the individual.  This is the reason for intervention, as no one should expect to suffer forever.

Offering help and support.

It is one thing to spot that one of your employees is struggling with grief; it is another to know what to do in response.  The most important point to make is that you do not have to solve the problems of your employee.  Instead, it would be best if you offered a human intervention, which is to be an active listener and provide flexibility in the workplace.  At some point, you may also decide that you should encourage the employee to seek intervention from a professional.

It is a good idea to have a policy in place that helps managers and colleagues know what they can and cannot do in support of a fellow worker.  Sometimes it is too much to ask that this be part of the skillset of a manager, as grief is such an emotive issue.  Therefore, offering guidance and support through a clear policy is helpful.


Spotting the emotional signs of grief will be simpler to identify than the physical symptoms.  It will be easier to notice these symptoms when the traumatic loss is close at hand.  However, if the grief is prolonged and complicated, then it can again be difficult to spot.  Therefore, it is for the managers to keep listening and offer appropriate support if they can.