How Long To Grieve Before Resuming Your Job(Search)

Yesterday I was speaking with a co-worker and we discussed a client of hers who indicated they couldn’t resume their job search because their mother had passed away. Always a dicey one when dealing with job seekers and death, but it needs addressing one way or another. So how long has it been since the mother passed away? Two years.

Another client she mentioned was dealing with not being able to move on to a structured job search and the reason this time was because the ex-spouse was losing custody of his child and he found this upsetting. The child it turns out hasn’t been seen by the client for 8 years, nor spoken to.

Are these excuses to get out of a job search, meant to garner sympathy or are they really that grievous that they justify extended unemployment with no job search requirements? Or is the answer some intensive one-to-one counselling in order to move forward with professionals that deal in this area?

For those of us who deal matter-of-factly with death as a part of life, the period of mourning may be very short; and others might classify these folks as cold and unfeeling. But is that any fairer than those who get over death quickly as referring to those who don’t as wimps or pansies? Neither reaction is necessarily right and the name-calling isn’t going to help either.

When working, an employer has almost always got set out an established plan that sets out the time off a person is allowed before being required to return to their job. Any further time might be allowed if taken as holidays, unpaid leave or sick leave if medically supported. It is important to realize though that even if you get six days off for the death of a parent, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be given a little space at work upon your return. If your work is like an extended family, co-workers will be sensitive to your situation and respect how you handle your return and whether you want to talk about it or not.

But consider that if you are already out of work and looking for a job, without a definitive deadline for getting back to the job search, there is a real danger of your sadness from the loss piggy-backing on the depression of unemployment and also the rejection from employer after employer. You could end up wallowing in silence day after day, week after week, and maybe even month after month without an external demand to get back into the world of the living and carry on. This same grief can be triggered after a job loss, a family or friends passing, the loss of a treasured pet, a home, etc.

Not everyone experiences loss the same way, and therefore going to an Employment Counsellor and saying, “I can’t job search because I’m dealing with the loss of my sister and it’s been eight months” will not get the automatic understanding and approval for your lack of job searching necessarily. Quite the opposite could happen where someone says to themselves, “Well that is sad, BUT deal with it and move on.” It’s not meant to be insensitive, and I’d hope no one would say the words in exactly that way. Some people DO need encouragement though to realize the time to move on is now.

Not everyone is prepared or able to deal with telling someone with kindness that the time for mourning should wrap up – which doesn’t mean you don’t care anymore, it’s just time to also focus back on employment. The grieving doesn’t end because it says so on a calendar, but HOW you grieve changes.


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