WPP 038: Rachel Kodanaz on returning to work after loss

When you go into the workplace and somebody says something to you that sets you off, the only person that loses in that equation is you. Because they don’t know they said it, they didn’t mean it. I cannot imagine for a second that people would do something intentionally to hurt you.... So my suggestion to my grievers who are returning to work is to have an elevator speech ready.... Just say something back and walk away and try really hard not to take it personally because I truly believe in every drop of their hearts, all they’re trying to do is not run away from you.
— Rachel Kodanaz

I had such a great discussion with Rachel Kodanaz for this episode. Rachel is the author of three grief-related books, and is an expert on returning to work after a loss – both from the perspective of the grieving person and the perspective of the employer. In fact, she consults with and speaks to organizations large and small on this topic. She’s a widowed mom herself, having lost her husband when her daughter was just 2. She was employed in a large corporation at the time, and had to figure out how to make returning to work work for her family.

Some topics that Rachel and I discuss include:

  • How she negotiated with her employer to take her toddler along on business trips;

  • Getting creative to solve the time-crunch problems of raising a young child on her own;

  • Myths about employees returning to work after a loss;

  • Questions to ask yourself before returning to work, to make your return go more smoothly;

  • Tips for discussing what you need with your employer;

  • Thoughts on how much to share with a prospective new employer when looking a job;

  • Tips for kicking the proverbial elephant out of the room when returning to work;

  • EAP, FMLA, and other employment benefits that may be available;

  • Suggestions for when you suspect colleagues may be resentful or think you’re not pulling your weight; and

  • Why you should have an “elevator speech” ready for when people say insensitive things.

I hope you enjoy my discussion with Rachel Kodanaz.

Links & resources for this episode

Rachel’s web site
Grief in the Workplace, by Rachel Blythe Kodanaz
Finding Peace, One Piece at a Time: What To Do With Your and a Loved One's Personal Possessions, by Rachel Blythe Kodanaz
Living with Loss, One Day at a Time, by Rachel Blythe Kodanaz

More links for listeners

Get my guide “What I’ve learned about widowed parenting”
Widowed Parent Podcast discussion group - sign up here (free) - first Sunday of each month
Jenny’s interview on the Life Through Transitions podcast

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