How I help bereaved parents return to work

By Jenny Warner, a volunteer providing career mentoring support for bereaved parents
supported by Child Bereavement UK.

It can be overwhelming to go back to work, and regaining the belief that you might ‘be who I was before’ does not always happen quickly or easily.

Having experienced bereavement myself through the loss of a baby during pregnancy as well as losing my 32 year old stepson in tragic circumstances, I understand the need to empathise and support others through the steps to be climbed in order to continue life’s journey. I know how hard it can be and wanted to volunteer with Child Bereavement UK to share what I'd learned in order to help other bereaved parents.

After such a life-changing event as the bereavement of a loved-one, people often say to me ‘How can I possibly go back to doing the work that I did before because my life, and approach to my career, has changed so much?’. How easy it is to return to work after bereavement will depend on so many factors, including the approach taken by your employer to your return.

It can be overwhelming to go back to work, and regaining the belief that you might ‘be who I was before’ does not always happen quickly or easily. Indeed, for some it  may not happen at all; you may decide you want a complete change of career, different working hours and pattern, or even not to work at all if your family circumstances allow for this.

The first step to moving forward is being honest with yourself and those close to you about how you are feeling and understanding your readiness to return to work. Also key is focusing on what you do best, testing your resilience and tenacity, and being encouraged and supported whilst you regain your confidence. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ time to return to work – when this time comes for you, explore what support will be available to you from your employer.

On returning to work, each person will feel differently about how much to share with colleagues about their bereavement but, in a safe environment, honesty is best. If you’re struggling or having a bad day, agree a plan with your employer so that you can continue working with their backing and support. Encourage them to be patient with you, keeping them up to date with how you are coping.

Returning to an existing job can be challenging and a phased return can be preferable. For some, working from home might be possible, although potential isolation and less spontaneous communication with team members can sometimes delay your reintegration into the workplace.

Regaining confidence and self-belief can take time -  it’s important to be kind to yourself and do what feels right for you, at a pace that works for you.


Visit our page: How we can support you for more on our services.

You can also call our Helpline 0800 02 888 40, email [email protected], or use Live Chat on our website.