Grieving Voices

National Grief Awareness Week | Facts, Stats, and Grief in the Workplace

December 05, 2023 Victoria V Season 4 Episode 171
Grieving Voices
National Grief Awareness Week | Facts, Stats, and Grief in the Workplace
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Show Notes Transcript

December 2nd-8th is National Grief Awareness Week. So, I thought I would do what I do best, and that is to bring attention to grief education. The better prepared and educated we are about grief, the more connected, empathetic, and patient we become.

In this week's episode, I will share facts, statistics, and insights about grief. Some of what you'll hear has never been shared on the podcast. You'll learn staggering statistics that even caught me by surprise!

Additionally, workplace grief is a common challenge within companies, and if you are a business owner with employees, a CEO, or an employee, this is an episode for you! And it's also an episode I hope you share with your manager, HR, or griever you know.

With someone dying in the United States every 11.14 seconds, there are a lot of grieving people out there, and my phone should be ringing off the hook. However, it's not, and I share my theory on why in this episode.

Please tune in next week, where I'll keep the National Grief Awareness Week education coming with a podcast about Grief and the Holidays.

RESOURCES:

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Would you like to join the mission of Grieving Voices in normalizing grief and supporting hurting hearts everywhere? Become a supporter of the show HERE.


Victoria Volk: Hello. Hello. Thank you for tuning in to grieving voices. I am your host, Victoria V of The Unleashed Heart, and today is the first of two episodes for National Grief Awareness Week. And this episode is going to be about just facts and statistics and some insights around grief. And particularly, I'm going to end with talking about grief in the workplace. So just some basic general facts about grief. 

Victoria Volk: Grief is a universal experience. It is something that everyone will encounter at some point. It is the natural response to loss, not just limited to death, but also to significant life changes such as divorce, job loss, or major relocations, for example. And if you've never listened to a podcast of mine that talks about different examples, there are more than forty plus different losses that we can have, which include intangible losses such as loss of safety, loss of security, loss of trust. 

Victoria Volk: Grief is also an individualized process. Each person experiences grief in their own unique way, and there is no one size fits all approach to grieving, and individuals may go through the process at different rates. It's why you have some people that appear to be fine after two, three, four years. And why you see some people still struggling after, like myself, after thirty years. And it's not that the people who appear to be fine at your three or four or five, it's that maybe they've just gotten really good at coping. Or maybe they've done some really deep work and they've really worked on their grief and that's why they are in a healthier place in their lives. But don't assume that just because someone appears fine that they are. Because there is no timeline. This is another fact of grief. There is no timeline. It doesn't follow a linear timeline. And the traditional stages of grief that we hear about such as denial, anger, bargaining depression, and acceptance are not experienced in a fixed order, and individuals may revisit these stages multiple times. And In fact, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross never intended these fight these stages of grief to even apply to death. It was through her work in working with terminally ill patients that she found that these are the emotions really and things that those individuals go through, which many grievers do too, but that wasn't the intention of her work.

Victoria Volk: And I've actually had Ken Ross, her son on my podcast, which I can link to in the show notes, but she even stated herself that that wasn't the intention of that work. In the memoir she wrote before she passed. Also, grief has a physical and emotional impact. It can have both physical and emotional effects that can manifest into physical symptoms like fatigue, changes in appetite, trouble sleeping, and emotional aspects such as sadness, anger, guilt or, or even numbness. Their cultural variations and religious beliefs that significantly influence how individuals express and cope with grief as well. Different cultures have unique morning rituals and traditions that will shape their grieving process. As I kind of mentioned earlier with the loss of trust and safety and security, these are what we would call maybe secondary losses. Such as loss of also routine, social connections, and sense of security. These additional losses can complicate the grieving process immensely. 

Victoria Volk: Another fact of grief is that grieving children will present differently than adults. And may not always express their grief verbally. They may show their grief through changes in behavior, school, performance, or through play. Now, yes, they may grieve differently than adults, but a lot of the things that say adults resort to to feel better you'll find that teenagers do as well, such as shopping or drinking drugs or relationships. 

Victoria Volk: Another fact of grief is that it grief has experienced differently at various stages of life. Children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly have unique ways of coping with an understanding loss. And truly, this really depends on what you learned as a child and how you will cope and express your grief. If you didn't learn how to do so as a child, you will resort to what you learned as an adult, and especially as a child who experiences grief, for example myself, where you grow up with it, it will express differently over time. 

Victoria Volk: Another fact of grief is that feelings of guilt and regret are very common. Individuals may struggle with unresolved issues or unfulfilled wishes leading to a complex emotional landscape, and this is the crux of grief. This is honestly what we address through grief recovery, not just feelings of guilt and regret, but these all of the complex emotional feelings that are what keep us stuck in holding on to our pain. 

Victoria Volk: And also, another fact of grief is that support is crucial. Having a support system is crucial and navigating grief. Friends, family, and support groups or professional counselors like myself can provide comfort and understanding during the grieving process. 

Victoria Volk: Another fact is that, prolonged or complicated, I'll put that in quotations, "complicated grief" can contribute to mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. This is where seeking professional help is important for those who find it challenging to cope with their grief. Now when we say coping with your grief, I would have you reflect for a moment or two on how you believe you are coping? And do you believe that that is a healthy coping mechanism. I've worked with a client who works diligently at her work and in her life and very high performing and running is her thing. She runs ultra-marathons and she realized in working with me and learning about grief that that was her escape. She was using running as a coping mechanism, as escapism. And so even these healthy things or these things that appear to be healthy and productive can be unhealthy. We're not sitting with our feelings. We're not giving ourselves in our heart space that time to work through and process. We're escaping. Our minds are very creative in finding ways to do so. 

Victoria Volk: And finally, while grief is a challenging experience, many individuals find ways to grow and develop resilience through the process. So, resiliency and growth is possible. Grief can lead to personal growth. Increased empathy and a deeper appreciation for life. But you're not gonna find that if you don't get off the couch, if you don't get out of the bed, you just won't. It's not gonna come knocking on your door. You have to go after it. This is why I'm so passionate about the work that I do. This is why I'm so passionate about this podcast. And sharing this information week after week and bringing others people stories to you because they didn't lay in decay. They got off the couch. They got out of the bed. This is what we need to do. This is the work. That is the work. It's not to keep on going and just sweep it under the rug. It's to keep on going by doing the work. Grief Recovery is the work. One of my clients she said that. That was her revelation to me was that, she always heard that you have to do the work and she's like, what what's the work? What is the work? No one actually says what the work is. And after grief recovery said, this is the work. 

Victoria Volk: I wanna shift gears a little bit and just talk about share some statistics about grief. These are particular to the United States. While I can provide general insights, and the most recent statistics, it is important to note that specific statistics about grief can vary and will change over time, so depending when you're listening to this, it may be irrelevant. But additionally, grief is a deeply personal and subjective experience and we just can't quantify all aspects. But here are some general observations and statistics related to grief in the United States. 

Victoria Volk: Did you know that there is actually website. The United States deaths clock, I will put a link in the show notes, but I was actually quite surprised that there's such a website and that this exists. But on there, it states that a person dies approximately every eleven point one four seconds. There are two million eight hundred and thirty thousand six hundred and eighty-eight deaths per year, seven thousand seven hundred and fifty-five deaths per day, three hundred and twenty-three people will have died within the hour of you listening to this. Seventeen deaths on average per day in my own home state of North Dakota, and the leading causes of death include heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory diseases and more. 

Victoria Volk: Let these stats sink in. Every eleven point one four seconds a person dies in the United States. Think about all of those families left behind and the grieving's left. My phone should be ringing off the hook. However, I understand why it's not, and it goes back to the six myths of grief I've spoken about many times on this podcast. I will link to that episode and the show notes that because that may resonate with you and maybe help you understand why you may not have reached out for support.

Victoria Volk: Another fact of grief is that the National Alliance for Grieving Children as estimates that over four point eight million children in adolescence in the US will experience the death of a parent. My hand is raised, that is me. Although when I was a grieving child, there was no other child in my class. I don't even know in elementary put together if that experienced the death of a parent. So I was very much alone in my grief in that time.
But of course, a parent doesn't have to die. I mean, many children are experiencing their parents' divorce. Where there is a parent that doesn't live in the same area or their parents are estranged. And maybe they don't even have their father or their mother in their life at all, and that can be equally devastating for a child. 

Victoria Volk: I wanna shift gears to grief in the workplace. The grief recovery institute reports that grieving employees may experience difficulty concentrating, decision-making and productivity. I'll share more grief stats in the workplace in just a moment, but finally, there are types of grief that are talked about such as this is another fact of grief talking about complicated grief. You may have heard that term where it's a condition where the grieving process is significantly prolonged and severe. Estimates suggest that a small percentage of individuals may experience complicated grief. However, in my opinion, grief is grief. Grief that is lasting thirty-plus years is still grief. Labeling it as quote, complicated grief because it's still impacting a grieber after a certain amount of time has passed does nothing to help a griever move forward. What people fail to understand is that grief will forever create feelings of sadness. However, it's the pain associated with the grief that keeps people in emotional jail. As grievers, we get comfortable with the pain and resist releasing it for fear of any other awareness or inner work that will be needed to move forward. What comes next feels too uncertain and unknown this causes grievers to feel overwhelmed and that recovery from the pain is impossible. 

Victoria Volk: So After hearing these general insights in these facts, I wanna share facts directly related to grief in the workplace considering this will affect nearly every single adult listening, whether you work for someone else, or you run your own company, this information will apply. Grief can significantly impact the workplace affecting both employees and employers. In the United States alone, grief-related losses and productivity may cost companies as much as one hundred billion dollars annually. The twenty twenty-two cost of dying report showed how much time and energy families spent dealing with the death of a loved one and the burden it placed on them. The results revealed a crisis of attention, time and energy. On average, settling a loved one's affairs took thirteen months, twenty months if the estate went through probate. And cost more than twelve thousand dollars. For grievers, something has to give and often it's work performance. 

Victoria Volk: And while comprehensive statistics might vary, here are some general insights and stats related to grief in the workplace. As I mentioned, there's a loss of productivity due to difficulty concentrating, decision-making challenges and emotional distress. According to the Grief Recovery Institute, grieving employees can cost companies billions of dollars annually in lost productivity. That is that hundred billion dollars I mentioned. Grief can lead to increased absenteeism as employees take time off to cope with their loss and attend funeral services. A study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found a positive correlation between grief and absenteeism. I mean, are we even surprised? I mean, truly, the grieving process can impact the individual experiencing a loss in their coworkers who may be asked to do more to compensate for the loss productivity of a grieving coworker. Coworkers may experience empathy fatigue or emotional exhaustion as they support grieving colleagues or may experience guilt not knowing what to do or how to respond to the grief of a coworker. They may even develop resentment. 

Victoria Volk: A survey by the grief recovery institute found that a significant number of employees feel their employers are ill-equipped to handle grief in the workplace. Employers who are supportive and understanding in the face of employee grief may foster a more positive work environment. Some companies have implemented grief support programs, counseling services or employee assistance programs to help employees cope with loss.

Victoria Volk: According to a survey by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. About eighty percent of employers offer EAPs or employee assistant programs which may include grief counseling, which may include grief counseling, by the way. Not all workplaces have formal bereavement policies and the length of bereavement leave varies among companies such as, say, some as short as a few days. Some studies suggest that longer bereavement leave periods may be a so aid with better mental health outcomes for grieving employees. Grieving employees may be at a higher risk for developing mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. And addressing mental health concerns in the workplace, including grief-related issues, is gaining recognition as an essential aspect of employee well-being. Providing training for managers to recognize and respond appropriately to grieving employees is becoming more common in progressive workplaces as well. So we're seeing progress and there is hope. 

Victoria Volk: If you're a manager or an employer, I want to give you some things to say to a grieving employee and what not to say. So things to say to a grieving employee. Often when a coworker reach turns to work after the death of a lockdown, we don't know what to say, so we don't say anything. But staying silent can make the grieving coworker feel isolated. So for example, show empathy. Say something like I'm glad you are back and we're here for you. Or we can't change what happened, but if there's anything we can do to make your life easier, know that we are all here for you. You can acknowledge that grief is ongoing. Say something like, how are you today? Is better than, how are you? It allows people to answer honestly beyond just responding I'm fine. Show up with a specific offer. And make it clear that it's okay if the person wants to decline, such as I'm in the lobby if you want to talk. I will be here for the next hour whether you come down or not. Take cues from the griever. You can say something like, I'd love to hear more about your loved one whenever that might be convenient for you. I want to respect your privacy. 

Victoria Volk: And these are some things not to say. While well intended, these phrases focus on trying to make the loss go away rather than acknowledging its magnitude. Five phrases to avoid when talking with a colleague who has just lost a loved one. You are going to be fine. You're still young so you can still have another child and get married again. For example, he or she is in a better place. Everything happens for a reason. Time heals everything. These are not helpful. And so please refer back to these if you find yourself in this situation and maybe say it to a friend or if it's a coworker, This is information that you can share with those you know too to help them know what to say and what not to say. 

Victoria Volk: I wanna move forward with talking about bereavement time because it is recommended that employers provide at least twenty days of bereavement leave for close family members. However, only four days is the average bereavement leave allotted for the death of a spouse or a child. Whereas three days is the average time off given for the loss of a parent, grandparent, domestic partner, sibling, grandchild, or foster child. For employees who have closed familial bonds, it can be helpful when bereavement leave is available for the deaths of relatives outside the immediate family. You can't put a value on people's feelings toward one another based solely on their relationship on the family tree. So it is essential for employers to be aware of the potential impact of grief on the workplace and to consider implementing supportive policies and programs. Keep in mind that the experience of grief is highly individual and workplaces should approach these matters with empathy and flexibility. Two areas companies can address today is rethinking bereavement leave policies and to address brief illiteracy by bringing in an educator like myself or in making grief training a part of HR onboarding. When loss inevitably happens and affects your team and colleagues, they will feel more confident and clear about how to collaborate and communicate with each other if they're provided with the correct information and tools. 

Victoria Volk: I hope that this information has been helpful if you are an employer and even if you are an employee, share it with your manager. This is something that affects the company as a whole and their bottom line. So this is a societal problem. This is an everyone issue. Grief is an everyone issue because it does affect everyone. I thank you for tuning in during this National Grief Awareness Week into this episode. Did you find any of the facts or stats alarming or surprising? Have you personally experienced challenges related to grief as a manager or employee? Please share your thoughts on social media. I'd love to keep the conversation going. I hope you come back for next week's episode, where I'll conclude National Grief Awareness Week by talking about grief and the holidays. And until then, remember, when you unleash your heart, you unleash your life. Much love.