When do people go back to work ?

I have been off work since my husband died just over two weeks ago. I have been signed off by the Doctor until the end of next week - so just two days after the funeral. I know I need to go back but boss is saying they will phone me to see how things are going at end of next week - and I don’t think I want to speak to her. I know they are very busy and I feel like I am letting my colleagues down by not going back yet - but I feel I cannot face people yet. I usually love my job !

Can anyone on here share how they are coping - when they went back, what it was like ? I have cried half the day today - how can I sit in an office like that. My colleagues are lovely but I do not want to cry at work.
Thank you
Trisha x

Hi Trisha, I went back to work after 3 weeks. I did that because I found myself literally sitting around doing absolutely nothing. After the funeral (11 days after my husbands death), I made a couple of necessary appointments at banks and the like to start to sort out the inevitable admin’ stuff, incidentally, I cried at each appointment and with each subsequent telephone call I made in the following days. At that point I knew I had got the ball rolling as much as I could and it was then I decided I would go back to work. If I’m totally honest it was as much for my sanity as it was for any other reason. I also had the feeling if I didn’t go back sooner rather than later I would never go back at all. I often took myself outside for ten minutes quietly to wipe my tear stained face, sometimes I still do that…I rarely speak of my desperate pain, if at all, I don’t want to do that simply because there isn’t anyone there that has this experience so I feel it pointless. I sincerely believe, once again, that each of us are different and what is good for one of us may not be for the other. I don’t really know whether it was a good, bad or, indifferent decision I made to return when I did. I just know the alternative wasn’t much better and probably worse in some ways. That’s the way it was/is for me, Trisha. If you make any sense of my comment then you do better than me :slight_smile: x

Hi Trisha, it is still so early for you. My husband died on the 29th November and I did not go back until the New Year. I talked to my employer because I did not feel I could be away from home all day. I also have a 2 year old dog that was used to having George at home with her so that was a consideration as well. I now go to work in the morning which gets me up and going and then work from home in the afternoon. This gives me the chance to go home and have a good cry if I need to and I feel more connected to George being at home. So far they have not mentioned me going back in the office full time so I am keeping my head down because it is working for me. I know I am lucky but if you work in an office and there is a possibility of you doing some work from home, even if it is only for a few weeks, it may help ease you back in. On a positive note I have found work to be a good distraction for me and gives me structure to my day. Obviously it is hard because for everyone else their life has not changed and they carry on as normal, talking about their spouses, families, holidays etc and you feel like yours has stopped, but I think you soon learn to filter it out or walk away until the conversation has finished. Good luck when you do return, but do it in your own time and don’t be too hard on yourself either xx

Thank you. It helps to know what others have done. If I were in my old office- I think I would be ready after three weeks - but the environment of where I am now is so different - As it will be over three weeks when the funeral takes place - I think I may need a little longer - otherwise I would be due back the day after the funeral. I think I will just have to see how I feel. I know working will help eventually - but to be honest I am not sure I would be of much use at the moment - my memory seems to have been wiped!
I definitely need to go back though.
Trisha xx

Thank you. It is bothering me about how I will cope- so will just see how I feel after the funeral. Today was a bad day - I would definitely have been sent home! It does really help to know how others have coped back in work.
Trisha xx

I think a lot depends on the job you do and the support you have around you if you are not working. I was off work 6 months and a lot of that was because of the demands of the job I do. I knew I had to be in a place able to lead and support staff - whatever would have been thrown at me. I’m back now and am facing that ( which would be okay) but I’m also dealing with staff absence, staff wellbeing due to “life changing experiences” and picking up others’ workloads. So in fact I’m in at the deep end and it’s a monumental struggle. I have school holidays to look forward to ( do I look forward to anything??) so feel I can manage stress levels as I have a 7 week break coming up soon. Do what your gut tells you to do. Most importantly do not overwhelm yourself. Grief is a long hard road and you will only navigate through it by tending to yourself. Seeking out solitude is as important as seeking out distraction. Cx


It’s completely up to you. Only return when you feel ready.

My partner died on the 21st March and I’m only just starting to think about returning to work two months later. Along with the funeral there are other things to sort out, I’ve never done so much paperwork in my life as I have these last few weeks. Your mind won’t be on the job. Your colleagues will understand.

Maybe when you feel ready discuss a phased return to work and what this will look like. I’m returning to work in a couple of weeks on a part time basis and will judge how I feel once I’m there.

Have you thought about visiting your place of work informally to see and chat to your colleagues? I did this last week and although I was nervous at first it was nice to catch up with them. Only after doing this did I decide I would go back in June.

I get the good day bad day thing as well. You will know when the time is right.

Hope this helps.

Shaun x

Thank you Shaun. It is another bad day I think. Woke at 5 am and could not go back to sleep. Have just dropped my daughter at the station and returning to the empty house is awful. But could not contemplate work today. I am finding it hard to even reply to messages from colleagues so could not face them any time soon and my memory is dire - I have to write everything down - not like me at all.
I am going to try and do some things today - get my hair done … (I want to look good for him for the funeral - but feel guilty doing something pleasurable). It is a long road isn’t it? I have some paperwork to do - but not that much as I put it all in the hands of the solicitor. I hope your phased return to work goes OK - remember we are all here to’hold your hand’ if you need to talk. I don’t know what I would do without this forum.
Trisha x

Thank you Crystal. My job is very demanding too - and is in a pretty fast moving environment where if I get something wrong there would be repercussions. I have only been off for two weeks and by the time the funeral is over it will be three. I never take time off work unless I have been really ill - and only took a week or so off when my mother died. She had been ill for a long time and was elderly so I had been preparing myself, but so much of losing my husband has been the shock and coming home and finding he had died in the afternoon. I feel so guilty for not being here - but the coroner said that there would have been nothing I could have done even if I was. I feel bad for my colleagues as I know they will be covering for me - and they are stressed enough as it is - it was always me the calm one that kept them going and they are facing an extremely busy time without me. But I have no loyalty to the company really (we were Tuped there almost two years ago) - the culture is not a caring one at all. I guess I am worrying too much here - it is still too raw to think about anything normal. I think I was just born guilty … but will see how I feel next week.
Thank you again - your reply has really helped.
Trisha x

I’m so sorry for your loss. Just because your doctor’s note ends next week, that doesn’t mean that you have to go back then - you can absolutely go back to the doctor and get signed off for longer. Doctors tend to give a short term sick note and then extend as needed, so do be honest with your GP if you don’t feel ready.

When to go back to work is a very individual decision, but I hope reading other people’s experiences is helping you to think through what is best for you.

Only interact with work and colleagues when you feel ready. If you feel it’s too early go with your gut instinct.

I know what you mean about memory…mines shot to pieces! I usually have an excellent memory so it’s strange that’s it’s being so unreliable. After two months it is getting slightly better.

Grahame died just before mother’s day and we had booked a meal in a restaurant for my Mum. Although she offered to cancel I said we should do it anyway. I felt guilty the whole time we were there that I was doing something pleasurable without him. I’m still glad we did if though. It got us out of the house if nothing else.

Getting your hair done will feel odd at first. Keep doing things like that as and when you feel able. It’s early days so only do what feels right for you at a pace you’re comfortable with. X

Thank you. I have already made a Doctor’s appointment - it is easier to make one in advance and then cancel if if I feel I am ready. I have never felt anything like this before and would always drag myself into work no matter what. But this is so different.

Thank you Shaun. I really appreciate your reply. I did cry a bit at the hairdressers - but she was lovely and I did feel better afterwards. I managed to stay out most of the day - just catching up with a few errands. Oddly I feel calmer tonight and can sort of feel him in the house.
My son has written a beautiful tribute for the funeral - but that made me cry - our children loved him so much, he really was the best dad too.
Getting out of the house does help doesn’t it - though before this it was always the place we wanted to be.
Memory - writing everything down - even the most mundane things…like feed the cat - although he will remind me if his bowl is empty.
I hope today has been a slightly better one for you.
Trisha x

Trisha, I too went to the hairdressers and bought a new dress for my husband’s funeral. I knew it was the last time I would dress and look nice for him. I choked a bacon roll down my throat to make sure I had nourishment, remembering the breakfast I ate on the morning of our wedding 24 years ago. So full of optimism and love and excitement. Nine months on and I’m doing okay (although I hate this new life of mine). You will too I’m sure. Going back to work too soon could be detrimental. I imagined the worst things I have had to deal with at work and it was only when I felt I could manage these did I go back. My sleep has been much worse since returning too. The whole physical aspect of grief has really taken me by surprise. Go with your gut and remember strength is making the right decision for you and your children - not worrying about everyone else. You take care Trisha, Cx

Trisha seriously, don’t rush the work thing. I’m sure you will need some time for reflection after the funeral. Remember, once you go back you are back. I’d try for the phased return if possible too. I can’t do that very easily with my work as I work a shift rota but I would have done it if I could.

I too had my hair and nails done for my husbands funeral day. I wanted him to be as proud of us as we are of him. It was a perfect day and I believe, most importantly, everything he would have wanted. Your strength on the day will come from somewhere and if you are anything like me you will know for sure that your man isn’t in the box at the front of the church, how can he be, you’re carrying him in your heart and soul, until you are together once more… for eternity next time :slight_smile:

I’ll be thinking of you and I’m sending you love x

Trish - thankyou for raising this issue as I’m questioning when I should go back to work. It’s 6 weeks since my husband passed away and it was very unexpected. I work full time and am responsible for a team. It can be stressful and it involves people’s lives which means it can be emotional. I’m getting up everyday and trying to keep on top of the house and garden and get out each day but it sometimes feels like I’m going through the motions and what’s the point of going out for lunch as I don’t even enjoy it as I am eating to keep going which wasn’t me previously.
My GP gave me a note for a week and 3 months which ends towards end of June.
People are asking if I’ll go back then and seem shocked when I say I don’t know. I know there is time yet but some days I think having the work routine and being busy would be good for me but other days I would get sent home for crying but being in such an empty quiet house in torture.
I think sometimes people think I’m doing better than I am.
You will need time after the funeral as others have said though. I under estimated how I would feel afterwards.
So be gentle on yourself, do what feels right x

Thank you - I think you are right. My daughter is worried I will not go back at all - but whilst I need to keep busy - work is not the right busy. I feel shattered today - and know what people mean about the physical affects of grief. I feel so bad too - when people I have known have lost their partners - albeit much older than I - I did not realise what they would be feeling like. I am dreading the new life too but I really hope there will be bits I enjoy - surely it changes at some point. Any way - thank you again - and hope you have a full weekend ahead - as my mother always said she dreaded sundays - but working full time I could never understand why. I do now.
Trisha x

1 Like

Thank you. I work four days a week ( although I usually do so many extra hours on those days I should be paid for 6) - It is a particularly busy time for my team at the moment - but for once in my life I just do not care about work. I care about the extra stress on the team - but not the work nor the organisation - which all seems so superficial and pointless. I will see my Dr after the funeral - though I need to text my boss who said after the first week off - I will ring you at the end of the three weeks. I think because the day after it happened I sent a long email trying to outline everything I was working on so it could be handed over. I know I was still in shock at the time and just wanted to rid myself of a worry - I think she interpreted it differently. I have not looked at work since nor do I want to - even when I am staring at the wall. I will get things done in the house and keep busy. It does so help to hear from others . Your situation seems so similar to mine - I have been gardening too - not something I have ever really liked - but it helps for some strange reason. The quiet house is awful but I cannot put music on yet - my husband’s life was music - and it just makes me cry even more - so instead it is LBC or another chat programme. Please let me know how you continue to cope - or if you need support too.
Trisha x