A few years back was a particularly tough year for me losing four close family members, including my dad. Most people associate grieving strictly with death. On the contrary, death just tops the list of the many life events we typically need to grieve for. In the “top fifty reasons to grieve” list, over a third of them can be associated with work. Here are a few:

  1. Loss of a co-worker
  2. Change in responsibility
  3. Pay cut
  4. Dismissal from work
  5. Retirement
  6. Company location move
  7. Trouble with supervisor
  8. Concern with company stability
  9. Change in working hours
  10. Betrayal of entrusted associate
  1. Having to let an employee go
  2. Losing a business partner or investor
  3. Losing a client
  4. Key business associate betraying you
  5. An employee resigning
  6. Selling the business you started or built
  7. Having to close your business
  8. Financial losses that could have been avoided
  9. Legal challenges
  10. Location move

We’re construction, right? We can fix anything! We can push through anything! I always thought this myself and learned the hard way. Many gaps I find on resumes are due to grief wounds.

Grieving takes different amounts of time for each situation, each person. Most of the things on the list you can grieve for without missing work or jeopardizing the responsibility you have been given if you remember to keep your attitude in check.

When you don’t acknowledge the stages of grief, they catch up with you, often forcing you to deal with physical, mental health, or relational issues that occur from burying the pain and letting anger get the best of you. Worse yet, in construction, if your head isn’t in the game, safety and risk-management issues can come into play.

A long-term employee or co-worker whom you not only helped mentor throughout their career but also became personal friends with and spent 50% or more of your waking hours with for many years announces they are moving on. It is natural for you to want to be happy for them while at the same time wishing this was not happening.

Grief is a natural response to loss. The five most common stages of grief are:

  • Denial and isolation
  • Anger
  • Guilt/Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance/Hope

Your grief will be lessened if you continue to love them through whatever transition, recognizing that even if they don’t show it, they will be hurting too. It will help you to discuss with them what keeping in touch with them might look like. If you can keep your heart open to another similar relationship future without worrying if you might have to say goodbye again, you will gain acceptance and hope faster. As Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

It will be normal for you to be angry and wish things were different. So make sure you release anger sooner than later and set yourself free to embrace your future. You made a difference with your friend who left, and there are many more people around you wanting in on that new time; you have to care for them too!

Whether employer or employee, the list is reality and not in our control. Never lose hope, and always know we are available to listen if you need a friend. The industry needs you, and a recovering you is better than a bitter you any day. Don’t try to mask your grief. Grieve away so you can achieve each day!

To the Hopeful You,

Suzanne Breistol


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