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The Elephant In The Breakroom

Written by: Michele DeVille, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Every human being on this planet will grieve. It is not a matter of IF you will grieve, but when. Grief is everywhere and as the world continues to struggle with the pandemic, it is difficult to ignore.

Yet, it is ignored. All the time.

We live in a society that is uncomfortable with grief and people often avoid it rather than acknowledge it. Somehow it feels easier to pretend it doesn’t exist even though grief will become a part of life for everyone.

There are myths that have been planted in the minds of many and people who are grieving often feel pressured to minimize their grief and hide it from the world because of specific belief systems. Especially at work.

Grief IS the elephant in the breakroom. Everyone knows it’s there taking up space, but most find it easier to pretend like it’s not there.

There are those who believe grief has no place in the workplace. Grief is a “personal” matter, and it should be left at home.

This is concerning and it is simply not true.

It IS true that grief is personal, but work is personal too. Most people will spend up to 1/3 of their lives at work and it is often difficult to completely remove ourselves from work when at home.

And, during the pandemic, there is currently a much higher percentage of people who work from home.

Grief isn’t something you can pack up and file away when you clock in and begin work for the day.

Grief becomes a part of who you are following a significant loss and it will show up in the workplace. Regardless of one’s job or role.

Ignoring the elephant in the break room creates a culture that minimizes an employee’s grief, and it can lead to several critical issues for a company over time.

The Grief Recovery Institute researched the “hidden” annual costs of grief in America’s workplace in 2003. The Grief Index report highlighted that grief in the workplace can cause burnout, distraction, absenteeism, turnover, and loss of productivity to name a few.

It is critical to create a grief inclusive culture in the workplace and to change the way we think and talk about grief. Grief needs to be acknowledged and employees need to feel safe enough to grieve instead of being pressured to pretend like they’re fine when they’re not.

Grief has always been hanging around in the breakroom and offices, but this past two years and the pandemic has brought grief to the frontlines personally, organizationally, and collectively. It is more important than ever for management to be aware of grief within the office walls and to create a space that feels safe and supportive for everyone.

We are ALL carrying grief whether it is the loss of normalcy, predictability, health, relationships, or the loss of a loved one. People are also grieving over job loss, the closing of businesses, restructuring, loss of finances or changes in management.

It is important to remember that grief is a full-time job in the early days, weeks, and months of a significant loss. So, it can be challenging to find a balance when grieving and trying to manage the responsibilities at work.

Company owners, HR and management are not expected to counsel employees, but it is important to develop soft skills on how to better support employees who are grieving. It can make a huge difference to your teams while improving trust, productivity, and morale.

Grief IS the elephant in the breakroom, but it doesn’t need to be. We are all in this together and there is healing through a connection at work, in the community and at home.

For additional information on how to better support employees or create a grief-inclusive culture please visit or send an email to for information on consulting, coaching and workshops specific to grief in the workplace.

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Michele DeVille, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Michele DeVille has a deep passion for supporting those who are grieving as well as educating loved ones, communities and the workplace on how to better support grievers. Her own life experiences and grief journey led to this important work. She is dedicated to changing how we think about grief through workshops, coaching, writing and creating helpful resources in the grief space. All grief matters and deserves to be validated, seen and heard.



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