SCARBOROUGH — Grief can immediately derail even the strongest individuals. It doesn’t discriminate. And, for an undetermined amount of time, it doesn’t easily leave your side.

In 2007, I suddenly lost my partner and fiancé of many years. The thought of returning to work after the standard three days off seemed impossible.

Today in my role as CEO of Hospice of Southern Maine, I see the direct impact that the death of a loved one can have on family members. Many are expected to return to work with little or no time to grieve their loss. This can have a profound effect on their ability to heal and move forward in their personal lives. Likewise, it has implications that carry over into the workplace.

I am proud to announce that Hospice of Southern Maine recently extended its bereavement policy to offer our employees seven days of bereavement leave after the death of a loved one. We’re proud to have made this change, but we take care to acknowledge that grief doesn’t end just because it’s time to go back to work.

The Society for Human Resource Management conducted a Paid Leave in the Workplace Survey in 2016, which revealed that the average paid leave after the death of a spouse or child is four days. The professional group’s study also found that in the event of a loss of a domestic partner, grandchild, foster child, grandparent, parent or sibling, the average bereavement leave is three days. Many companies are doing their best to provide a supportive environment for employees who need time to grieve when a loved one dies. For small companies that value their employees but don’t yet have the financial means to grant longer leave policies, efforts to help manage some of life’s challenges within the workplace can be a great benefit.

Of the 25,000 participants surveyed by the nonprofit Grief Recovery Institute for the Grief Index, 75 percent indicated that reduced concentration after the loss of a loved one affected them significantly beyond their allowed bereavement leave.

This study also found that 85 percent of management-level personnel ranked their decision-making abilities as very poor to fair in the weeks or months following a grief incident.

Among people in jobs requiring physical labor, 90 percent indicated a much higher level of physical injuries because of reduced concentration after a loss.

I was in a senior-level position at the time of my loss. I was very fortunate I had a strong and supportive team around me, as there were many times that I barely made it through the day.

Bereavement support is essential to a healthy grieving process. Part of the Hospice of Southern Maine mission is to provide compassion that goes on, even after the loss of a loved one. We do it by offering bereavement counseling services at no cost to anyone in the community, regardless of whether he or she received our hospice services. Bereavement support is available through ongoing group and individual sessions.

Hospice of Southern Maine also hosts an annual conference to educate about end-of-life issues. The theme of this year’s Anne L. Hunter Memorial Thresholds Conference is “Making Space for Grief in Our Lives,” featuring keynote speaker Kate Braestrup, a national best-selling author and chaplain with the Maine Warden Service.

The conference features real conversations about grief, professional guidance on coping and tips for helping friends, co-workers and family members experiencing a loss. We invite you to join us on May 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hannaford Hall at the University of Southern Maine’s Portland campus. Ticket information can be found online at

Employers should be aware that employees may still be managing their grief even after they return to work, regardless of how much time they’ve had off. To ensure your workplace is a supportive environment and foster loyalty among your employees, make grief management an integral part of your management training. Recognize that grief is something everyone deals with differently, and be flexible with the emotional needs of those dealing with a loss.


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