Returning to work

Hi I lost my wife to Cancer at the beginning of November . I gave up work to care for her last may . In the middle of march I returned to work but I’ve been on the sick for 10 days , it started with insomnia and progressed to anxiety . I had planned to go back tomorrow but now I find myself feeling very anxious and probably wont go in . I’m really disappointed as I need to carry on and live out our dreams . Does anyone have some tips that could help ?

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Hi Condai, I’m so sorry for your loss, I haven’t any miracle cure for your problem, but I do think it is very common, I was a nurse before I retired and it was a fairly stressful job, my husband became ill a year after I retired and when he died they asked me to go back and help out, I found I could no longer cope with the stress of it, before he was ill, I never had a problem, so I’ve never gone back, but that doesn’t help you, maybe there is somebody on this site that will be able to help and point you in the right direction, sending love Jude x

Hello, I am sorry you lost your wife and find yourself needing this forum but welcome.

My husband died in October, I just used my counselling session today on this very topic.
I have been working from home since Jan and got signed off sick before that as I went totally nuts (now I can sometimes give the impression I’m not nuts at least even though in fact I still mostly am). My first advice would be to call GP tomorrow or 101 tonight to try and get signed off for longer if possible if you’re not ready or is that not an option? Did you already try prescribed anti depressants? I started a month ago and they are really helping me calm down and be less anxious. Also the counselling helps a lot, you can get this through GP too or three sessions through sue ryder.

Failing that, this is what my therapist suggested to me today if you have to go in (I do soon but only to pick up a new laptop, I’m finding the thought of even that quite daunting after seeing hardly anyone for 6 months):

Have a plan for when you start crying (I had been planning to not cry but better to be prepared as she reminded me it will almost certainly happen at some point). I am going to talk to my colleagues I’m close with and tell them I’m coping but emotional sometimes. I’ll warn them there will be times I’ll likely cry for what looks like no reason to them and then I will leave to step outside to calm down but come back and be OK again so for them not to freak out if it happens (my close colleagues are men working in construction and not used to seeing me cry but I am quite close with them so thought this may work in my situation, it’s not for everyone obviously). Having some allies prepared like this may help. She also suggested maybe meeting up with them prior to going into work if possible but I guess that’s not possible for you now.

People will have been talking about you having lost your wife but will not necessarily speak to you about it because they don’t know what to say or feel embarrassed, inadequate or like they may upset you. Think about this beforehand to prepare yourself a little for it happening and know it is more about them than you.

I was concerned I will feel inauthentic if people who may not know about my husband because I only know them to say hi to say to, ask me how am I or how was lock down and I say fine like I would have in the past. She suggested to say the truth but don’t have to go into the whole detail as different people you have different layers of detail with.
For example some people who I hardly know I’ll just say I survived lock down and I’m coping which is true as I’ve survived for 6 months. I do tend to overshare (can you tell!!) and worried that if I go down that truthful road I will be openly weeping in the office for hours telling them all the details and then they will mark me down as a mental one to get rid of in the next redundancy round so I’ll be truthful but brief to try to avoid that.

Another level of people who I know a bit better maybe I’ll tag “but it has been hard” on the end but most people I plan to not directly mention my husband’s death unless they bring it up.

Try to make it easy on yourself by having clothes, food, transportation all sorted beforehand so you don’t have to think about those things rushing on the day.

Dunno if that helps but you’re not alone with these thoughts and I really wish you luck whether you go in tomorrow or another time. Take care, this is so hard isn’t it.


I’m also finding it very difficult. I work as a teacher, another job that is very stressful and full on.
When Geoff was alive I would often bring work home but could cope. Now the thought of 30 children in a class and bringing work home also fills me with dread. I’ve been off work since November, part of that was my own illness too as we both had covid.
I get so anxious everytime I need to speak to my Doctor, but she has been brilliant and assured me I’m not ready for work yet.
I am thinking about early retirement, I am such a changed person and think maybe I have different priorities, death certainly puts things into perspective. If you’re not ready, speak to your GP and do what is right for you. X Jacky


@Condai6162 hi I am sorry you struggled with work. It is hard to go back to after time away, especially when you feel like you have been and are going through hell. I did a week back full time and was very anxious and panicky, and was on the point of ringing my GP for more time off as I felt I couldn’t cope. I spoke to my manager and arranged to work on a phased return. Started at 4 hours for 2 weeks, 5 hours the next 2 weeks, 6 hours the next 2 weeks etc until I then went full time again. Knowing that I only had to keep it together for 4 hours when I started doing it helped enormously, and increasing the hours gradually was good too. I still have days where I don’t want to go in, but once I there I am usually ok. If I get panicky when I get there I have a walk round the block to calm down and then go in. I always have a bottle of water by me. If I am starting to get emotional I take a sip or two of water and it helps calm me. It has helped me to be around work colleagues. Some weeks if I didn’t work I would see nobody. I hope you manage to sort something out, but maybe you just need another few weeks before you can feel strong enough to face it. Best wishes.

@Jacko25 did you lose your husband to covid? I’m sorry for asking such a personal question but I am also a teacher and I lost my father to covid in February so a lot of what you posted resonates with me.

Hi tenzel, I dont mind you asking at all.
Geoff did die from covid, he was only 64 and had no underlying health conditions.
I think that’s another reason I don’t know if I want to return to work. I can’t help but feel that I brought it home from school. I’ll never know but the law of averages makes me think that.
I know cases are low at the moment but it worries me that if they rise again and I have returned to work that I won’t be able to face going in. I’m scared if I’m honest.
Also if I bought work home, he would be in the background making me a cuppa, or cooking tea while I marked books etc.
I think I want my life to be more than just work and coming home to an empty house.
Hope I haven’t rambled on too much, I think as teachers we always knew that schools weren’t as safe I they tried to make us believe and I was worried about going back after the last lockdown but didn’t really have a choice. Wish I had and then Geoff might still be here.
Love and hugs :hugs: Jacky

Thank you so much for replying to me. It’s definitely stressful teaching in a school in normal times but during a pandemic…wow…so difficult. Every little cough makes you worry. I understand your fear about bringing it home to your husband but I hope you’re not blaming yourself…it could have come from a number of places. My father was 63 when he died a few months ago, though he died of covid in Canada (where I’m from). I spent 4 weeks there and then came back to the UK… I was off for a half term and went back full time last week. It’s so hard because I feel okay at work and then the minute I leave the building, it all comes crashing down and I miss my father so much.

So sorry about your Dad. X
Yes school is a stressful place under normal circumstances, but I think because I had Geoff as my backup, looking after me and chatting when I got home, then it was manageable.
I don’t think I would have the patience I had before or even the motivation.
At least I have the luxury of having a choice.
I try not to blame myself, it certainly won’t help me feel any better.
Love and hugs :hugs: Jacky

@tenzel, I also work in a school and know for a fact that i caught it first and gave it to Stephen who passed at only 48. My school policy is to test all household members on result of a positive so I have to live knowing that when I tested positive everyone else in my family was negative.

The guilt is something else. I don’t think I’ve even got to the grief part yet tbh.

I cannot face going into that building ever again right now. The idea of it makes me want to throw up.

It makes me so angry Lost82, when all the media were laying into teachers as normal because we had concerns about safety, they chose not to listen and this is the result. We all knew it was impossible to social distance in a school. I am a HLTA and during a week came into contact with every child as I covered all the PPA. I was the first adult to get covid and within a week 3 other members of staff and 3 whole classes were closed down.
Now I have lost my partner of 28 years. I called into school today and another teacher said you need to come back to work, it will help. I don’t think so, I’m like you, don’t know if I could ever face it again. I’m sad because I did love my job and have some amazing friends there (been there 25 years.)
But now I have to do what’s right for me, so maybe will take early retirement even though I won’t have anyone to share it with.
Love and hugs :hugs: Jacky

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