Work and how we cope - or is it just me

So having lost my husband last May - I returned to work full time at the beginning of September - after a phased return from mid July . To be fair my employers were very good and up to now have continued to be so. However despite knowing my anxiety about additional tasks they are now expecting me to be ‘back to normal’ which of course I am far from. They do not understand how hard it is every day - they do not see the quiet tears in a cubicle when that great wave of grief hits you for the silliest reason. They do not understand when pushing you for holiday dates that holidays are the last thing from your mind - it is so different when the only person you want to be with is no longer there - are holidays ever the same - of course not - no matter who may be available to accompany you. They do not understand the emptiness and heartache that hits when you come into an empty house or how those words have a nice weekend or evening are barbs and hurt. I have learnt to ignore those comments now. And now they are wanting me to work on new events in March - working on the guilt factor that no-one else can do them and it is only fair they are shared out. These colleagues are not nasty people but the pressure from the organisation means that like most places we are too short staffed to cope . So here I am getting all upset having been awake since 3.30 fretting about going away twice in March. I do not like going away for work anymore - it is so different with no husband there supporting me and welcoming me home. Maybe it is time to retire - but for the most of it I enjoy work but I am equally aware at 64 I do not have the energy I did. And my colleagues at half my age complain they are tired. I know they have no comprehension of the devastation that hit me when my husband died suddenly with no warning whatsoever - like most people they probably think I should ‘be over it’. Oh well will be officially up for work in an hour - but it would be nice to hear how others who work have found it.
Take care all.

Hello Trish
I totally agree with you regarding work colleagues assuming we have moved on and getting on with our lives . If only ! They’ve no idea , which probably , was us before our lives were turned up side down. I have found the new year terrible, everyone returning to work booking time off and sharing their holiday plans ! I’ve never been a jealous person but feel that way now ! I cannot bear to plan holidays without my hubby yet . I have been allowed to reduce my work to 3 days a week now. The days seem busier and I’m shattered every evening, however it’s working for me . I hope work supports you,
Glad you’ve told them how your feeling , unfortunately we’re not the person we once were!
Be kind to yourself
Ang xx

Trisha, I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your husband. There are no words, and not even any actions I feel that can make it better.
I didn’t lose my partner, but I lost my Dad in November and the grief has hit me like a tonne of bricks. My Dad was the best thing in my life, I loved him more than most. The shock, the loss, the anxiety and panic attacks have been immense.
In terms of work, I’m still signed off by my GP. It’s been 12 weeks. I still feel like it happened yesterday, I’m so numb and stuck in it all with no one to grieve with. I have my boyfriend but we’ve only been together 6 months and I don’t like feeling like I’m bringing down the mood of others.
I’m taking my time however I do worry that the longer I have off, the worst it might be. But I don’t think things can get much worse than this. My life is falling apart. I’m on anti anxiety medication now that makes me feel funny tbh but like you I puzzle on the subject of work. I work in a busy pub which is obviously very social and it’s the one thing I’m worried about. I’ve worked there for over 2 years, and everyone knows me. I’m friends with a lot of our regulars yet haven’t faced them yet. It’s that look on people’s face, the lack of support or lack of sensitivity I’m anxious over. How did people respond to you when you first came back?

Much love to you x

Dear Watt
I was very much on a down when I wrote my post - and was feeling indignant and sorry for myself and just not able to cope and of course no Gary to lean on - but I told then how I felt. I still think they do not understand but they are not nasty people and so messaged my line manager at 7 and told her.By lunchtime I had had a message to say they would ask someone else and not to worry - followed up by a meeting with HR to find out if I was getting enough support. I think work is stressful and people forget that if you add grief to stress it is amplified. Anyway I am back to coping and to be honest work has been my saviour. I am at my worst when on my own with the day stretching out in front - and find once I am immersed in my work it distracts me for the majority of the time. There are of course times when I feel like crying - lunchtimes when he called me every day - the journey - but in the main work is good for me.
When I first went back it was hard - I asked my boss to tell others I did not want sympathy and did not want to talk about it - a simple how are you would be fine. Virtually everyone kept to this - they knew what had happened and were gentle with me. I found that the ones I was close to gave me a hug and the others were kind and some of course did not want to speak - but I did not mind this as I recognised how awkward they felt - should they say something or not. It helped me not having to tell anyone, I also did a phased return - gradually building my hours up. I realise I need to work - just sometimes it all gets to me more than it once would. I would suggest you decide how you want people to address you and ask your boss to let your co-workers and the regulars know . Most people are nice - even if they don’t understand and we are all so sensitive in grief. If I can help you more with this - let me know.
Take care
Trisha xx


Hi Ang
We still not have had that phone call ! Thank you - I think our colleagues just forget - after all they have no comprehension of this grief - and like you the new year and all the talk of holidays is awful . I think working works for me too - end of the day I am totally shattered and I expect you are still doing four days work in the three you are now down to.
Trisha xx

Dear Trisha,
Thank you for such a lovely post, I am sure that you are right in what you say. x

Dear Mary
Thank you. I have often wanted to post how much I admire your kind words and compassion to everyone on here. And how brave you are as I know you have some major health problems - but you deal with it so well and find time to encourage others Stan sounds like a man to be proud of. I don’t know where you live but if perchance you were close I know I would love to share a cup of tea with you. So thank you again for your kind words.
Take care
Trisha xx

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I live in the North of England, Trisha, it would be lovely to have a cup of tea together,
You take care too.
Thank you for the lovely message. x

Trisha, thank you for your reply.

I’ve decided to be signed off for another two weeks. I’m in an awkward situation where I work with someone I thought was a friend, I’d known him since we were very little as our Dad’s were good friends and neighbours. It was my friends Dad who was there with me the day I found him. For some poor than, less than an excuse, he didn’t even come to my Dad’s funeral despite messaging me to say he’d be there. I can’t stand the thought of having to look at him anymore. When he started at my work, I took him under my wing and trained him up introducing him to everyone as my childhood pal thanks to our pops.
It’s hard isn’t it? Knowing how to deal with people. I know everything is just times a million cause of the grief. I can’t get stressed, it’s too much just now. I completely lose it.
Anyway, thanks again for your offer and support.

Dear Mary

I am afraid we will have to forego the tea as I live in London - but it was a nice thought. Will let you know if I venture North anytime soon.

Dear Watt - you will know when you are ready - I just felt one day ‘I can do this’. I think the thought of going back was actually worse than the reality. I can understand how you feel with regard to your so called friend - but I would say that he is probably nothing more than scared. My lovely husband’s best friend disappeared while my husband’s mother was dying - he came back two years later and admitted he was so frightened he could not cope. Not much of an excuse but my husband forgave him and they became friends again. Life is, as we know, too short for regret. He was devastated when Gary died and calls me from time to time and is so lost. They were friends from starting high school so nearly fifty years. Some people are very weak and one day the person who let you down will realise what he has thrown away. He will find it hard to apologise knowing how much he has hurt you. He is the weak one my dear not you and is to be pitied not feared. When you feel strong enough to go back to work you will know. Most people are kind but some just do not seem blessed with manners nor consideration for others.
Trisha xx

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Please do, Trisha, that would be lovely.

I lost my husband very suddenly in January 2018. I was devastated. It was so very hard. However I felt I needed some normality and went back to work on the spring. I loved my team and knew they would understand. Then big shock I was made redundant. It came at at time when I was still fragile and grieving. It was like another bereavement. I didn’t want to retire as I had looked forward to retirement with my husband but now work helped fill my days. After a lot of heart ache i was redeployed within the organisational to a lovely supportive environment and have reduced my hours . Everyone is very kind and I lke being occupied. Sometimes weekends are lonely and I don’t llke making plans. My house is my refuge and I can feel anxious to leave it. Life can be quite routine but I am trying to make sure I do take up offers to go out with family and friends.

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Dear Dott
I am glad you find work helps you - but it must have been so hard to be made redundant at a time when you were vulnerable and grieving. I too was planning on cutting down my hours ready for retirement but having lost my husband there seems very little point now. My employers want to me to see an occupational health provider to see if there are any adjustments they can make to help with my stress. My stress is nothing to do with my grief it is about about them giving me too much extra work. I am therefore very wary - usually I would take on anything but I have learnt to say no and I don’t think they like it, so I am fearful and do not really trust their motives. Once I would not have worried - but without my lovely husband everything is different. I am not good with plans either and also find home a refuge so when I balk at going away for work they do not understand. I do make an effort too with family and friends -and hopefully one day it will come naturally rather than having to make an effort.

Hi Trisha
Thanks for your reply. I think you should be proud that you are saying no to the extra work. That would be hard at any time. Recognising what’s best for you and sticking to it is good. For me making myself do things when I feel like staying in is hard, We are all on steep learning curve we never wanted or thought we would be on.

Hello Trisha
I am So sorry that you are going through this . I lost my husband in October of last year so only for four months ago. I went back to work after Christmas and though I am in a very warm and nurturing environment I don’t think anybody has a clue what it is really like. I can’t concentrate anything like I used to, I find my mind drifting going back to days when I had a lovely life with my lovely husband and two children. He was my absolute rock and made it possible for me to do a very full on job he took care of the children he cooked meals as well as doing all the other things that a caring partner does . So now I find myself trying to come home early to make sure that there are proper meals made and not wanting to stay in work not wanting to talk to colleagues not really wanting to be there anymore even though I have loved this job for 30 years I just don’t feel like myself anymore . Trisha you are not alone . The tragedy is that to have any real understanding of how we feel you have to have gone through it. Colleagues see me with make up on suited and booted and think that I am the same person as I was before that I am better now! They don’t realise that that person doesn’t exist any more. Take care of yourself it’s a cliche but it’s true consider the things that make you feel even a little bit stronger and go with it.


Hi Chrissie, you could have been describing my return to work. I feel exactly the same. Similar time scale…my husband died suddenly in sept. I returned to work in Dec. My focus and drive is gone. I can’t concentrate well and know my team are being patient but I’m not leading well at all. I’m seriously considering leaving to try something different and less full on, but I’m scared of making the break from a career I’ve always done, to the unknown. I’ve lost my work mojo and am spending evenings after busy work days, dealing with the investigation into his death…I’m hanging on by my fingernails and nobody at work really has a clue what it’s like. I try to be honest…and they are supportive…but not sure I can keep this pace up…good luck x

Hi Diverliz

I am in Just the same position . People are glad to see me back, to take up the reins again and think that all is as it was. But just as you say, my drive has left me I feel like each day is a battle between the me I am now and the version of me I was before he died and that person with the drive and never ending enthusiasm for the job, Just doesn’t exist anymore. I am so very sorry to hear you have to go through investigations I can’t imagine how difficult that must be for you. I hope it is resolved soon.

I know you will have people around you advising you but some good advice given to me was not to make any major decisions in the first year after the loss of a partner. You may feel very differently in 3 months and start to feel that the familiarity of work is something which is a comfort. I’m hoping that if I keep pretending for long enough it will become reality does that make sense?
We’re doing well you know, we get up each day and lead a team of people how good is that? I’m amazed I get out of bed some days so let’s congratulate ourselves. ( does that sound too much? Reading too many quotes! )

I too read about not making any life changing decisions in the first year…I’m holding off doing anything rash…but I’m also starting to seriously consider my alternatives. I just can’t help thinking that life is too short for doing a job that takes over from everything else…,you’re absolutely right though, we are doing amazingly well…I know some people would still be off work at this stage… I do find the routine good in a way. It’s just my job doesn’t give me any head space to deal with everything else…I feel like I’m working my grief round my job, and it very much aught to be the other way round. Keep your spirits up Chrissie…you’re doing great x

Dear Trish I too lost my partner in May and I returned to work in July. I feel exactly as you do when my boss is mithering me to take my holidays I have left before the end of March. My words to him were why would I want holidays when I am at home 4 days a week anyway. The thought of it stresses me out. Holidays will never be the same again as I don’t have anyone I can go with anyway. Like you say it cuts you up when people say have a nice weekend and everything on the tv seems to be family orientated. Think I have got through to my boss now as he has offered me overtime which I have done this week and some more next week, which means at least I won’t feel as bad when I take a days holiday on Sunday. But at nearly 68 years old it isn’t something I should be doing really, I should be cutting down or even retiring. My partner would have my meals ready when I returned home from work and I used to love getting home to him. Like you say younger people haven’t got the stamina of us oldies. They complain about their workload and do many sickies which is something I haven’t done a lot of in my 20 years working there. So to me being at work is a catch 22 situation. It is nice to be surrounded by people but when the conversations turn to holidays or family things, that is when it hurts. Janet xx