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Part II: What You Need to Know About Grief > Three Conditions Of Grief

Chapter 6. Three Conditions Of Grief

People grieve in three kinds of situations:

  1. We grieve when we lose something: a loved one, a pet, a job, our wallet, a workplace friend, a familiar role in an organization, the old “family” atmosphere at work, our identity in the workplace. This represents breaking the bond or significantly altering it, and the grief reaction begins.

  2. We grieve when we are threatened with the loss of something or the possibility of significantly altering a bond: going in for a biopsy or other medical tests, a child very late and still not home from school, rumors of layoffs, top-level management meetings with known competitors.

    CASE: A Perceived Loss

    In a company whose financial situation was known to be shaky because of the loss of several large contracts to competitors, a middle-level manager was having severe stress-related complaints—insomnia, loss of appetite, difficulty in concentrating and a sense of dread each morning. He was able to pinpoint the onset of these symptoms to the first time he became aware that his boss was not acting his old, friendly self. This vice president’s shift from warm, familiar conversation to more formal, abrupt communication signaled the alteration of their bond, and a slow panic began for the middle manager. This led to many “what-ifs,” “supposes,” and the sick feeling in his stomach that was the beginning of the grief reaction process.

  3. We also grieve for something that we never had and never will have. This represents our perceived failure to bond. Examples are the relationship never to be had with an alcoholic mother or a brother who died in a war, an education never acquired, the career never attained, the dream of a lifestyle never achieved. A company’s financial reverses and the resultant changes often contribute directly to the loss of dreams for not only the employees but also for the families affected. What we don’t get to have because of workplace change and uncertainty creates multiple grief reactions.



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