Back to work

My first time on here. My beloved husband died suddenly and unexpectedly last month, on 14 June. His funeral was only last Tuesday, 12 July.

I said I would return to work today. I felt I had to do something to get some routine and normalcy back. But now I feel I’m going to have as panic attack.

I don’t want a normal life without him. Each morning I wake up and remember anew, and it’s like he dies all over again.

I just feel so tired and alone.


Hi ElsieF I totally hear and understand my husband died July 2021next Wednesday 27th will be one year I have been reliving the entire thing leading up to his death.

I have not returned back to work since last September I too thought keeping busy by going back to work would help but could not and still feel the same am still trying to accept and come to terms with his death I will never be able to speak with him hear his laughter touch him or call him on the phone I have been experiencing panic attacks Agrophbia and other issues am still going through the grieving process.

Just to say you are not alone and this is a good forum where you can be yourself and not be judged.

Just take it one day and one step as a time.


Hi Elsie

Welcome onboard to the group none of us wanted to join.

I can understand your hesitancy, but work can also be a welcome diversion.

Bedtime is the worst for me, that’s when I feel truly alone, I don’t think life will ever return to the normality we were used to, it’s going to be different going forward. It’s only 8 weeks since my wife passed away, and it’s impossible to imagine a future without her at my side.

If you don’t feel you are ready for work, then don’t do it, take things at your own pace.


Hi @ElsieF, I’m so sorry for your loss, it’s still very early on for you
I went back to work after seven weeks, the doctor would have signed me off for longer but I was afraid if I didn’t go back soon I would never do it. Plus I needed to earn to pay the bills.
I cried all the way to work the first day, but once I was there and past the first day back it was okay. On the whole colleagues were and still are very supportive. I got the odd person that avoided me as they didn’t know what to say.
Even now 16 months on, I don’t enjoy my job like I used to and struggle some days. It does give me purpose and fills the day.
It’s getting home from work that is still hard, no one waiting with a cup of tea and asking how my day was and of course the evenings can be very lonely.
In the end it’s a decision you have to make for what is right for you.
Sending love
Debbie X


Thank you. I’m half way through day one and cried my way through my inbox. I have a doctors note for another three weeks but I need to try.


Bless you, I hope it’s not too much of an ordeal for you today.
Debbie X

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@ElsieF, How did work go today, you also had the extreme heat to deal with too.
Debbie X

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I managed 8.30 until 2pm, although nothing more challenging than going through emails, and trying to explain why I suddenly disappeared without trace five weeks ago. Little steps, I guess. Thank you x


You’ve done the hardest bit, day one, each time you go in it will get easier.
Don’t expect to much of yourself, even now I still have tearful days at work, but least everyone knows now and that makes it easier to cope with.
Debbie X


Hello Elsie, so sorry for your loss.
Grief is exhausting and it’s very early days to expect any kind of return to ‘normal’.
If you can, give yourself time and space and if you have to go back to work, could you ask if they offer any kind of phased/ flexible return.
My husband passed away in December last year and I remember how hard it was just saying, ‘last year’ as if he was already in my past.
There is a lovely poem by Donna Ashworth which includes the words “ when you lose someone, you don’t just lose them once, you lose them again every day when you open your eyes.”
As for a return to ‘normal’ there isn’t one - there’s just a ‘different life’.
Take care and be gentle on yourself.
Kath x


I didn’t return to work, I’d been signed off & then Covid hit & I’d planned to take early retirement at the end of March 2020 when we were going to move to Spain. We’d already downsized to our one bedroom bolt hole so working from home wasn’t an option & the only reason for going back to work would have been interacting with work colleagues so I continued with the original plan & retired. Not sure if I’d have coped really going back as Derek was a big part of my working day, I’d been there 16 years so he was well known & liked by my workmates. He’d quite often provide cakes & treats & as he’d already taken early retirement we’d sometimes meet for lunch. We always had a lunchtime conversation from when he was at work, same time every day. I think I’d have found it hard going back if I’m honest. Every part of your day is different from the moment you open your eyes. Good luck with going back to work, had Covid not hit I may have tried just for the company of people if nothing else.
Take care x


Doug was well known by colleagues at the school where I work. It was also the school our children went too. I’ve been there 28 years.
Because the funeral was during lockdown not every who wanted to could attend, some watched it by live stream a couple of staff got excused lessons and stood into the street.
I think that was partly why I could go back, I knew I would have lots of support from my colleagues which I still do.
My only regret I didn’t take early retirement to spend more time with Doug, he had been retired a few years earlier.
Debbie X


My first day back yesterday was okay-ish. But then this morning, one call (death, not work related) resulted in a complete meltdown and the floodgates opened. I realise that whilst I was desperate to feel normal, my normal is Colin bringing me cups of tea, asking about my day, helping prepare dinner, pouring a glass of wine at the end of the day, watering the garden, him putting on the dishwasher and emptying the bins, watching telly together, going to bed together.

In me attempting to feel normal, his absence was amplified 100-fold.

Doing a few hours work from home this afternoon but the guilt I now feel is overbearing. How dare I possibly carry on as ‘normal’, writing reports and work plans, when my husband is dead?

Think I might avoid working mornings, and work evenings instead, as I hate evenings. I hate mornings to, to be honest. I am lucky my work is flexible and I choose home or office.

I just want this whole situation to go away. We don’t deserve it now. I’m only 49.


Don’t put so much pressure on yourself, the normal as you once knew has gone and won’t ever return. How can it with the most precious thing in your life is not here anymore.
In time you will learn to adjust to a new way of living and working. There are going to be many bumps along the road, reminders that will result in meltdowns and lots of tears, this is all a normal reaction.
Don’t look to far ahead just take each day as it comes and deal with that day.
You are right your only young and you don’t deserve this, none of us do, but life is like that. We just have to do the best we can.
Sending a hug, you sound like you need one right now.
Debbie X


I feel your pain and so sorry for your loss. I lost my husband 7 weeks ago and for me working is the only way I can get through each day. I need to focus as i hate being in the house. He had a painful and traumatic death and its this that haunts my thoughts all the time. Its different for all of us and I have found my GP was really supportive. Do what you feel comfortable with and don’t rush it is day by day
Lots of hugs and take care x


Thank you so much Sharon. I’ve not spoken to my GP, other than digitally request sick notes via reception. The only contact I’ve had is a condolence card from the practice, even though they played no part in Colin’s care. Colin’s death was traumatic and sudden too. Having focused on last weeks funeral, I now have an internal NHS investigation to endure.

I hate been in the house too. Col only died five weeks ago but since then I eat outside and stay outside as long as I can. I haven’t sat in our living room since the day before he died.


Dear Elsie, your message brought me back to this time a year ago. My husband died suddenly (dead at the bottom of the stairs) at the end of April last year. His funeral was a month later. I was originally desperate to go back to work but struggled as the reality set in and ultimately had 9 weeks off, and a form of return to work scheme for a few weeks after that. My first two weeks back were a real haze - sleeping tablets got me just about match fit to go back, but I found myself crying whenever I was alone and felt like my inner compass was askew, constantly trying to correct to my lost ‘true north’. I kept searching for some kind of handbook that would tell me what I needed to do to return to my former, funtional self. A year on from that return, I am outwardly largely normal. But in reality, I am still desperately sad, shocked and in search of that missing direction. Work has made things better and worse. Some of that is the nature of my work, but some is just a realisation that there is no complete distraction from reality and that there’s always a voice (sometimes shrill, sometimes faint) reminding me that my husband is missing. Please know that what you are feeling is entirely tragic and normal. Friendship, tears and time all help. Those around you welcome cues as to how to react; most want to support but sometimes need a steer as to what is required in practice. Sending you strength and best wishes in your time of outrageous loss.


Thank you so very much. Every tells me I am strong. I’ve always been strong. I’ve always been in control. I’m a Head of Communications. I have my stuff together.

Only I don’t any more, and that scares me too.

I think my desperation to go back to work was down to control, and trying to reclaim some over my life.

In the last six weeks since Colin suddenly died, I’ve had no control and lost my/our life and future, I don’t even control my own emotions any more.

At least at work I’m in control.

But everyone was right and I failed. I’m exhausted, I can’t stop crying. I can’t cope. It is so hard.

My boss has told me I’m back too soon and should take another two months off, but what the heck am I supposed to do?

I’m alone at home. If I don’t have my husband and I don’t have my work, what do I have to call my own - despair, fear, overwhelm?

I just want to be me again - but my me was so defined by my partnership with Colin. I am so so desperately sad. I wish I could go with him. It feels a better option that a long future of emptiness.

Work have agreed I take an extended break for five weeks in September so I can travel to stay with a friend in New Zealand. They have said I should stay off until after my trip but I have asked to just work half days until then. I need to find me and try and have half a life. I love my job and I am proud of what I do. Colin was immensely proud of my work too. He’d be gutted to think I couldn’t work any more,

Thank you for understanding, Your message, knowing you understand, means so much. I know our personal lives are most important, but work is such an important part of my life too. My work helps people.


Elsie, the return of that sense of control was what I craved when I went back to work (I originally tried to go back straight after my husband’s funeral). I run a big team wanted to be the capable person who could do that again. It has taken me 15 months to accept that my old control isn’t coming back. All I can say is be very kind to yourself. You would not be human if you hadn’t cried and struggled at the beginning of your return to work - or if you don’t continue to do so. I still well up and often find myself relieving the shocking moments of losing my husband, sometimes in the most inappropriate moments. In truth, I have a moment most days. You are only demonstrating how human and loving you are. NZ sounds like a very good plan. Best wishes.


Elsie I totally get where you’re at. I did the same as I’m a Carer and thought it better to help someone else whilst finding a new normal rather than moping about at home. It was a mistake, so I’m now taking time out to heal, as I should have done. My grown-up children all said they thought I was going back too soon. My husband died very suddenly, no warning signs or anything. I’m not gonna pretend finding a new
normal is easy, but we’re here for you. Just do whatever is right for you and be kind to yourself. X