i never thought i would post a question like this.
September 10, 2017 11:45 PM   Subscribe

My friend is dying, miles away. I am an emotional wreck. I'm meant to return to work tomorrow after taking some time off, and I don't know how to approach this with my boss, or even if I should. Can you recommend some wording for me? A couple more details below the fold.

I think I can work, but I dread the daily chat - I just want to be left alone and possibly allowed a slightly lighter workload than normal. Work is pretty intense (lots of punishing deadlines) and my boss is quite high-stress, so this is weighing on me - possibly more than it should.

Also - if anyone here has dealt with anticipatory grief or just regular grief from far away, can you advise on how to deal, because I am completely lost. I feel utterly powerless.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not good at this, but my deepest sympathies nonetheless. Death and loss are strange emotions to understand personally. I hope you can find peace. If possible, say you have a family emergency and visit your friend. If not, tell your boss you're going through a tough time personally right now and will do your best at work but are giving a heads up regardless.

"You must do what you can't not do." Do whatever you feel is right that you can live with. Take care of yourself.
posted by lunastellasol at 12:00 AM on September 11, 2017

This question is anonymous and you mention you were returning to work "tomorrow" so I am not sure how long it took your question to be approved, but I think honesty is really the best policy on something like this, particularly if you think you will have a noticeable change in behavior or will be unable to deal with people/certain situations. If you think you can skate by undetected, I wouldn't say anything because I think managers generally want as little to worry about as possible -- in that case, don't point out your performance is dropping if he might not notice. But it sounds like you think it will be visible and you want your manager to agree on easing up a bit.

I would ask to meet privately with the boss and saying something like, "This is tough to talk about, but I wanted to make sure you knew what was going on if I seemed a bit reserved or quiet lately -- my close friend is dying and it's been a very emotional, difficult time for me. I don't want to talk about what's going on with him/her, it's too hard for me, but I just wanted to give you a heads up that I'm going through a rough time and might need to keep to myself a bit. It won't be a problem for me making sure everything that needs to be done gets done, but I might need to some time to deal with what's going on with my friend, so anything non-essential, I might ask if the rest of the team can pick up a little slack for me, if that's possible." And then see what he says and if he's willing to accommodate you. He might have suggestions or you might have to lay out what easing off you entails.

If your boss is a good manager who realizes that you're a person with other stuff that matters in your life, he'll ease off and try to help you. But you may need to be specific about how he can help, or otherwise he will keep doing everything the same way, waiting for you to speak up if it's an issue. I also think you need to figure out what the expiration is on this though and try to manage expectations because it's doubtful he's going to be understanding on a longer term basis if you continue to be at less than 100% of your normal work performance. You may not need to do this immediately, but I think it's something you need to think about.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:05 AM on September 11, 2017 [16 favorites]

About getting people to leave you alone: I recently had a string of losses in my family; all four of my parents died within 15 months. During the interludes when I was back at work or trying to live my normal life, I found it very helpful to say, "I'd rather not right now" when people asked about my ongoing crisis. Everybody I did this with totally understood and helped me change the subject. I suppose if someone had continued to push me, I would have ignored them.
posted by workerant at 9:04 AM on September 11, 2017 [1 favorite]

This happened to me last fall. Everyone's different so I don't know how helpful I can be but fwiw:

For some people, I just said I had a family emergency, that i was losing a family member. Yes, it was a lie, but it was too complicated to explain the details. You don't need to feel bad about this. Friends are family. I went into more details to get out of work, I was pretty explicit that I wouldn't be able to function without some time off.

If there's something you think you might regret...eg, if you think you should go to your friend, just go. But if you can't, for pragmatic reasons, that is okay. You have to take care of yourself too.

I printed photos of better times and we decorated his hospital room with them. I bought a lamp for the room. Tiny things that helped me feel like I was helping. When I could no longer be close by, what helped me through was staying in daily (some times hourly) contact with friends who were going through the same loss...we had a little message thread going and even a year later sometimes we'll just post a little heart or a *hugs*...just knowing you're not alone in grief helps. We would also take pictures of ourselves raising a glass or other rituals...ways to honour our friend and be together even when we couldn't be.

I'm so sorry this is happening. Big hugs.
posted by stray at 9:25 AM on September 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yeah, big hugs.

When I've been in a similar situation, when I hate the world, and hate god/the universe/whatever, and I don't care whether I'm at home or at work or anywhere... it also makes the deadlines seem so meaningless and the yelling boss seem so small and misguided and sad.

I hope somehow, somewhere, eons in the future, you and your friend can see one another again.
posted by at at 11:20 AM on September 11, 2017 [3 favorites]

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