SUPPORTING EACH OTHER FOLLOWING THE DEATH OF A COLLEAGUE PDF

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www.bps.org.ukSUPPORTINGEACH OTHERFOLLOWINGTHE DEATH OFA COLLEAGUECoping with death and griefduring the Covid-19 pandemic

WE A RE A DAP TING TO A NEW WAY OF LIVINGAND A RE OF TEN SURROUNDED BY FE A R,ANXIET Y AND SICK NESS. COPING WITH LOSSDURING THIS UNPRECEDENTED TIME CAN BEE X TREMELY DIFFICULT.We are currently facing tragic lossof life, often under very challengingcircumstances. Grief at any time isdifficult and painful and even undernormal circumstances, the death ofa colleague can be challenging andrepresent a significant loss. Whileyou will experience all of the normalpain of loss and separation Covid-19may present additional challenges tothe grieving process. The death of acolleague may be related to Covid-19itself or may occur for other reasonsduring the pandemic. However, thesocietal changes and restrictions onbereavement procedures will impact oneach of us, our families and all of ournormal support networks.Some new challenges to grieving thedeath of a colleague may be relatedto the restrictions arising from socialdistancing, for example:The inability to attend their wake,funeral or memorial service intraditional ways.Limited physical contact with yourfamily, friends and other colleagueswho may have otherwise provided2invaluable support and comfort.This may lead to further feelings ofisolation and loneliness.You may be living in isolation withothers who cause tension andresentment.You have more ‘thinking’ timebecause of limited access to outsidehobbies.Additional challenges because of grievingduring this pandemic may include:You may be experiencing intensefeelings of worry about the currentsituation in the world. This maydistract you from fully expressingand processing your grief.High levels of uncertainty andinstability about the currentsituation, making future planningmore difficult.It is common to see, hear or feelthe deceased’s presence following atraumatic bereavement.You are surrounded by remindersabout illness and death.SUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUE

Different members of the team will havedifferent levels of relationships with theperson deceased and will respond to loss invery individual ways. Our other colleaguescan be supportive in our grief, or at timestheir reactions and own grieving responsecan be challenging to us.It is important to remember that griefand reactions to loss are deeply personalexperiences, which are influenced byour previous life experiences, by our ownpersonality and personal beliefs, and by ourrelationship with the deceased.It may be particularly challenging if youwere close to them. You may feel additionalanxiety and guilt if your final interactionwith them was unpleasant in any way, or ifthey died within their workplace.It is important to remember that grief is anormal, essential response to death. It isour natural way of healing.Nevertheless, grief can be incrediblydemanding, and you may be surprised atthe different ways it can affect you, and theimpact this may have, particularly duringthis current crisis.Grief is a unique and very personal process.However, some of the common impacts ofloss are detailed overleaf.SUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEFTHE IMPACT OF THEDEATH OF A COLLEAGUE:UNDERSTANDING GRIEF3

SUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEF4COGNITIVE IMPACTYou may find yourself preoccupied with a variety of thoughts, including thoughts ofthe deceased. Common reactions include:DisbeliefDenialConfusionThinking it is not fair.Preoccupation with or avoidingthinking about it.Difficulties with concentration.Difficulty making decisions.Making more mistakes than usual.Finding it difficult to get back ontrack.Shock, numbness or disbelief canbe common, especially immediatelyafterwards when people often reportdifficulty accepting or believing whathas happened. This may be especiallytrue during the Covid-19 pandemicwhen you may not have the opportunityto see your colleague/friend at the timeof death or afterwards. You may havebeen working in different areas due tothe Covid-19 working pattern changesand this may increase those feelings ofdisbelief.The busyness of work and changedwork environments may allow someof that disbelief to continue forlonger than usual. This means thatthe reality of the loss may not beexperienced until a more ‘normal’living routine returns. Alternatively, ifyou are self-isolating or less busy inyour daily routines, you may feel moreoverwhelmed by your feelings.SUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUE

Emotions associated with grief may come in waves with some waves feeling moremanageable than others. Common emotions you may experience gerEmptinessAnxietyIsolatedAnger, irritability, and the associated questioning of ‘Why did this have to happen?’may be exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly if related to concernsabout staff protection and wellbeing.Guilt may be more significant during the Covid-19 pandemic with increased feelingsof ‘Survivor Guilt’. If you have worked closely beside your colleague questionslike ‘why them/not me?’ can understandably occur but may become increasinglyintrusive.Worry or fear might be more significant in relation to your own health and that ofyour other colleagues, or for other family members concerning Covid-19 infection.Your own family may have heightened concerns for your wellbeing and this can putadditional stress on your day.SUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUESUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEFEMOTIONAL IMPACT5

SUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEF6PHYSICAL IMPACTA strong emotional response following loss can have a direct and often negativeimpact on your physical health. This may cause increased anxiety when you aremore vigilant to worries about infection and signs of illness generally.Physical impacts of grief may include:Tiredness and lack of energy.Feeling faint.Difficulties sleeping.A hollow feeling in your stomach.Changes in appetite.Tightness in your chest or throat.Aches and pains.Oversensitivity to noise.Weight loss or gain.Feeling more tense and irritated.BEHAVIOURAL IMPACTLoss has a direct impact on ourbehaviours, even more so in the currentcrisis. Some behavioural responses mayinclude:CryingOvereatingUndereatingAvoiding contact with others.Wanting to be around people less than usual.Drinking alcohol or taking drugs.OverworkingSUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUE

You may be trying to find meaning inwhat happened. Common spiritualreactions can include:QuestioningSearching for meaning.Trying to make sense.Faith challenged.Faith strengthened.Grief canchallenge orstrengthen ourfaith.SUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEFSPIRITUAL IMPACT7

SUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEFLOOKING AFTER YOURSELF FOLLOWING THEDEATH OF A COLLEAGUEGrief is a natural process that requires time. It can be easy to neglect your ownneeds during the grieving process. The feelings above are normal and may ebband flow as your experience of the loss adjusts and adapts into your life. Below aresome tips for looking after yourself while grieving in the current crisis:Be kind to yourself: Give yourselfpermission to feel whatever you feel.Keep regular contact with othersthrough texts, calls, video calls,emails etc.Share your feelings: Make use ofsupport from the people around you,as you might find it helps to talkthrough how you are feeling.Try to eat well, even if you don’tfeel like it.Get some rest, even if you can’t sleep.Try to keep a regular routine ofgetting up, dressed, eating meals atthe usual time.Try to get fresh air every day if youcan – even opening a window canhelp.Take some gentle exercise evenaround the house while doing chores.Do something creative to expressyour feelings (e.g. write, paint, makea scrapbook, or play a musicalinstrument).8Accept help if offered.Don’t feel guilty if you arestruggling.Try not to turn to ‘quick fixes’ thatmay cause additional distress.Try to avoid increased substance usesuch as alcohol, medications or drugsYou may wish to post condolencesand support messages online.You may wish to consider joining asupport group online.Journaling: keeping a personalrecord or diary may be a helpfulway to process thoughts andexperiences.Understand triggers to your grief andprepare for those triggers (e.g. on aday that holds painful memories ofyour colleague plan to take a day offwork, or let your friends know thatyou’ll need extra support).Be patient with yourself and others.SUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUE

The death of a colleague may have a significant impact on your work and workingenvironment. In this unprecedented time you may find these suggestions helpful:Share your feelings: Remember your colleagues may be experiencing similaremotions as you. Some people find it helpful to share their thoughts with others,particularly those going through a similar process. This mutual support can bedone virtually and may bring a sense of camaraderie.Take advantage of support available: You may find that the best support comesfrom those around you. In the workplace, managers are able to offer signpostingto supports. Additional supports are listed at the end of this document.Allow for changes: Try to accept that your work may be affected, and it will taketime before a ‘new normal’ is established.Consider marking their death through a memorial at work (or at home, if you areworking from home). For example, placing a photo up of the deceased, lighting acandle, sending a sympathy card to the family, planting a bush or tree.You may wish to share memories or photos virtually with other colleagues.Other memorial activities could be planned for the future when the current crisisends. One such example may be to hold a remembrance service for staff whichcan be a helpful way to commemorate our colleagues who have died.Above all, be compassionate towards yourself and those around you. Managing lossis hard, and we all will make that journey in our own way and in our own time.In grief you canonly do the bestyou can.SUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUESUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEFCOPING WITH WORK AFTER THE DEATH OFA COLLEAGUE9

SUPPORTING E ACH OTHER DURING GRIEFRESOURCESAdditional resources can be found ereavementAUTHORSThis document was prepared by the BPS Covid-19 Coordinating Group BereavementWorkstream.Prof Nichola Rooney, Consultant Clinical Psychologist; Chair DCP NI.(GROUP LEAD)Dr Angel Chater, Chair Division of Health Psychology, University of Bedfordshire.Dr Becci Dow, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Vice-Chair (FPOP), OxfordHealth NHS Trust.Dr Frances Duffy, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Northern Health and SocialCare Trust,NI.Dr Theresa Jones, Senior Research Associate, Anthrologica.Dr Elaine Johnston, Lead ICU Clinical Psychologist, Chelsea & WestminsterHospital. BPS CDT Committee.Polly Kaiser, Consultant Clinical Psychologist Pennine Care NHSFoundation Trust.Prof Elaine Kasket, Registered Counselling Psychologist. Cyberpsychologist.University of Wolverhampton.Dr Sarah Meekin, Head of Psychological Services Belfast Health &Social Care Trust.Benna Waites, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Wales. Co-chair DCPLeadershipand Management Faculty.Dr Elaine McWilliams Consultant Clinical Psychologist in End-of-Life Care, NorthTees & Hartlepool NHS.10SUPP O RTIN G E ACH OT HER FOLLOWIN G T HE DE AT H O F A C OLLE AGUE

The British Psychological Society is a registeredcharity which acts as the representative body forpsychology and psychologists in the UK. We supportand enhance the development and application ofpsychology for the greater public good, disseminatingour knowledge to increase public awareness.St Andrews House,48 Princess Road East,Leicester LE1 7DR, UK0116 254 [email protected] British Psychological SocietyIncorporated by Royal Charter Registered Charity No 229642BRE30f 01.06.2020

Dr Becci Dow, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Vice-Chair (FPOP), Oxford Health NHS Trust. Dr Frances Duffy, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Northern Health and Social Care Trust,NI. Dr Theresa Jones, Senior Research Associate, Anthrologica. Dr Elaine Johnston, Lead ICU Clinical Psychologist, Chelsea & Westminster Hospital. BPS CDT Committee.