When someone experiences a loss, the support of their manager and work colleagues can really help to alleviate pressure and stress at an otherwise difficult time.
This Dying Matters Week, Laura Corbett, Clerical Officer for Palliative Care Services at Walsall Healthcare, has agreed to share her experience of the difference that understanding and flexibility made following her grandad’s death in 2022 – just a day after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
Living in a Sandwell nursing home, grandad George, 89, and his wife Elsie, 89, were battling with ill-health – both living with vascular dementia – while George had also been diagnosed with heart failure in the weeks leading up to his death.
“Grandad had been poorly for a long time,” she explained, “and so I often had to attend meetings and make phone calls here and there, and my manager was fantastic at giving me the time and space to sort it all out.”
“My dad was my grandad’s only child, and I’m the eldest of two daughters so I tried to help where I could. I sorted the practical bits out and made sure nan and grandad were comfortable and happy.
“I didn’t feel panicked about work – I never received pressure from my manager, nor was I made to feel guilty. She knew I was trying my best to balance work and home-life and her patience made it so much easier.
It was on her way to work one September morning that Laura got the call to urgently attend the nursing home. Sadly, she and her dad missed the chance to say goodbye by minutes, but felt comforted knowing he wasn’t alone in his final moments thanks to a kind-hearted member of staff at the nursing home who sat and held his hand. This was further helped by Laura’s reflections on the night before where she was able to give him one last kiss and message of love.
It was on the day of her grandad’s death, and in the days following, where her caring colleagues “made all the difference.”
She said: “It was so upsetting, and it was the first time I’ve had to deal with a loved one’s death while at work, but my colleagues were brilliant. I could talk to them openly and honestly about what I was going through – they couldn’t have been kinder.
“I was supported to be where I needed to be. See, it’s not always just about the day someone dies, but rather about being flexible in the lead up when someone close to that staff member is receiving end-of-life care, as each moment risks being the last moment they have with that person. I am grateful I was able to be with grandad on his last day.
Nan Elsie was supported by the nursing home to attend the funeral, while Laura and family took great comfort in being able to come together as a family to pay their respects.
And what advice would Laura give to others who are grieving at work?
“I think it’s important not to hide it – to talk about it and be honest about how you feel, as it’s amazing how far people will go to support you. I had a great network of people around me, and others will be willing to do the same if you are able to start that conversation.”
Find out more about how you can support a grieving colleague by visiting the Dying Matters website: www.dyingmatters.org/AwarenessWeek