Very closely related to: How to behave with a colleague who suffered the loss of a close family member? and What is an appropriate response to the death of a coworker's loved one?

These questions ask about how to deal with a colleague after losing a loved one. In the past couple of months, however, two members of my family died from unrelated causes. I've mostly dealt with it now, but I've been examining how I felt and I'm not quite sure if I behaved appropriately.

My colleagues knew, and they've all offered condolences and support should I need it, as well as my manager offering me whatever leave of absence I need to go and deal with things. People close to me personally all noticed that there's something's not quite been right and I'm not really the same person I was beforehand. I've opened up to them when I've needed to, but I'm well aware that these things just take time, and this has obviously put a lot of strain on some of my personal relationships.

Fundamentally, though, I've just wanted to keep busy, get my head down, and carry on with work. I like where I work and I like the people I work with. I know that I've not been performing as well as I usually would. I've found myself more distracted and just generally a bit slow.

I wanted to keep taking on tasks, but I'm not sure how I could have tempered this with a sense of "It's going to take longer than it ought to". It might have been more worthwhile to just take the leave and let them get on without me, rather than attempting to make them carry on with only half of me. Maybe I could have made it clear that I just wanted to plod along and get stuff done for a bit.

If it's relevant, I'm a mid-level software engineer in the United Kingdom, but I imagine humans are quite similar everywhere.

How can I let my manager / colleagues know that my performance might suffer temporarily while grieving or dealing with a personal loss? Should I tell them?

  • 1
    You're getting close votes because you lack a clear answerable question. Is it safe to assume that what you want to ask is "How can I let my manager / colleagues know that my performance might suffer temporarily while [grieving / dealing with a personal loss]?" With perhaps a follow-up question "And should I tell them?".
    – Lilienthal
    Feb 8, 2017 at 11:13
  • @Lilienthal Yes, that's mostly what I'm getting at.
    – ymbirtt
    Feb 8, 2017 at 11:22
  • Somewhat relevant: Is it advisable to make my boss aware of a harsh personal situation?
    – rath
    Feb 8, 2017 at 15:42
  • "longer than it ought to" ? No. Longer than you thought before you knew, and therefore longer than some (but not all) your coworkers may think. Feb 8, 2017 at 16:03

3 Answers 3


This is a question that is most up to you and how you feel. I've not experienced a loss from a family member, but I have friends who have.

Grieving over a loss takes time, and the time differs between each person. It took a long time for my friend to "get over" the loss and function like he used to be (You won't be the same after a tragedy like this), but people around him understood. The first months(half-year) is really painful and will probably cause some distraction at work, and crying when you don't want to. It's normal and you're only human. Don't add this stress (The feeling of you're not doing well enough at work) to your current situation cause it won't do anything good.

People understand!

If you like your co-workers and your job, my advice would be to stay there until you feel better. If you still feel like you're a "burden" then speak with your boss or teamleader and work out a solution that can help you during this time.


I don't think there's a problem. Most employers would really appreciate you working even after suffering such a loss - and they can understand that sometimes you just need a purpose to take your mind off things.

Nobody reasonable expects someone who just lost 2 family members to perform at peak efficiency.

If that doesn't give you peace yet, you can set up a 1 on 1 with your direct superior and explain your concerns. In all likeliness, they'll tell you its fine and that you're still appreciated in the team.


As you cited the other question you probably know I answered there. I am in a somewhat different situation, position wise. I work in a research group, so while I discuss ideas and such with my colleagues in the group that I see on a daily bases, the people I actually work with on the same project are collaborators from other groups (interdisciplinary field). Those people I do meet, some of them more regularly, others very irregularly, but most of the communication is via email. In the end, people depend on my work, but there won't be anyone "jumping in" quickly to replace me if I take leave. That is a different situation to yours. Still, when you take your leave and someone else takes over your critical tasks, they will most likely need time to get into it, have enough other work to do and thus generally be slower completing those tasks than you on a normal day. So even if you are now slower, someone else would not necessarily be faster or better at it.

Something that is similar is that I program and develop software. And people say that you can get into a programming flow sometimes. Actually, when I was struggling with a loss, I more or less threw myself into programming. Less people would bother me, I only answered mails on specific times, compared to instantly (but as my collaborators are not in front of their computer all workday that is normal for them, so they wouldn't mind) and I was desperately trying not to think of something else. The flow helped me to cope.

In the cases I felt my performance was in fact not good I told at least one other person in that project why that was the case and always was met with understanding.

Take your leave when you feel you need it. There are so many times we only work with half of our mind, this is human and normal. If you want to work and you feel okay to go to work then do that. Half the work done is better than none. (And you won't come back to a desk full of unfinished tasks.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .