Category Archives: Career

31 DJFJS Day 2: Job Search is Harder than Grief

We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

I decided years ago that unemployment is harder to work through than grief.


Because there is not as much hope. 

Google hope and you will get the following definition:

a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

The Day I Had Hope

On April 17th, 2008 I had hope of getting through grief, thanks to the daily devotion in Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations For Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman.

Easter Frame

The devotion was about flowers and trees blooming, the sun shining and the birds singing. When I stepped out the door onto the front steps to go to work, I was filled with hope because it was as if I had stepped into the day the devotion described.


It was warm, the birds were singing, trees were in bud and flowers were blooming. The grass was green and the sky a lovely shade of blue. There was nothing that could destroy my hope.

I knew then I would make it through grief even though there would be some rough days ahead.

The Day I Lost Most Of My Hope

Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained.

Seamus Heaney

A year later  I got laid off due to a departmental reorganization.  I not only had hope but was confident I would quickly find a new job.

Sure it was still a little scary losing a long term job but I had found it in the newspaper and was certain I would find another one the same way. Yes, it was 2009 and I expected to find a job in the newspaper want ads.

However, hope faded the day I went to the outplacement company for career counseling. I left there with 4 books to use as a road map to job searching – 4 books! Each book covered a different phase like creating a marketing plan – huh?  I am a human being not a can of soup!

That day was a rude awakening.

Sustaining Hope

We really feel happier when things look bleak. Hope is endurance. Hope is holding on and going on and trusting in the Lord.

Michael Novak

Being unemployed or even underemployed requires the ability to sustain hope for long periods of time, which drains me.

Even though there are days I am drained either because of my negative self talk or other people’s criticism and condemnation, I must find a way to hold on to hope and to trust God will answer my prayers for a job which will enable me to pay the bills and get ahead financially.

The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dreams shall never die.

Edward Kennedy


Thankful for hope still living, even on the days when it is a little flicker.

Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.

The Best Reasons For Helping Widowed Employees

Remember the best reasons for helping your employee who has been suddenly widowed at an age society considers “young” is:

  • “Therefore but for the grace of God go I.”  It could easily be you in her shoes at any given moment.
  • “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 7:12 (NIV)
  • “You reap what you sow” or “What goes around comes around.”  Whichever saying you prefer, how you treat your employee will come back to you maybe in a day, a year or 30 years from now.  That is a fact of life.

So why would you not want to play a part in her recovery?

Coming Monday 5/23 – Thoughts On Death Of Other Family Members

Coming Saturday – Sacrifice & Become

Coming Sunday – Wildest Dreams

Drama Queens

Drama Queens

Definition – Someone so overcome with grief they spend their days at their desks wailing, claiming no one understands (which no one else does), and pounds her desk, manager’s desk, or conference room table.  Her behavior disrupts other employees.   She enjoys being the center of attention. 

No Room

I can empathize with anyone who has suddenly lost a spouse at an age society considers “young.” However let me make one thing perfectly clear –

there is no room in the workplace for drama queens.

Realize This!

Drama Queens need to understand that while people are sympathetic and are willing to help, there is still a business to run.  In order for them to grasp that concept strict limits need set.

What Drama Queens Need

They need to be on extended bereavement leave, and/or medical leave.  While on leave they need help from a trained bereavement counselor and visits to their doctor so their health can be monitored. Drama Queen or not, the last thing your company needs is the sudden death of a coworker. (been there, done that, not fun.)

Weekly Meetings

Even though she is on leave, have her come in for weekly meetings so you can discuss her progress.  Set guidelines so she knows what you expect from her while she is on leave.  Have her provide proof for doctor’s visits and each session with a trained professional bereavement counselor. 

After she completes extended bereavement and/or medical leave and you can see improvement in her behavior, then she can return to work.  She will have to work under a mutually agreeable plan that includes weekly performance reviews.

First Year Anniversary

If you have given her medical leave, extended bereavement leave, and provided a plan to get her performing at the level the job requires but she is still a drama queen at the end of the first year, then you say:

“I’m sorry, but we need you to perform at the level this job requires or we’ll have to let you go.”

Then put her on 90 day probation. Let her know what you expect from her during the 90 day period.  If there is improvement then renew the probationary period for another 90 days.  I would renew these probationary periods for up to a year.  

No Improvement

If at the end of the first 90 day probationary period there is no improvement, then giving her a 6 month severance package is appropriate.  Also hire an outside placement company to assist her with career counseling.

Above And Beyond

Yes it is a lot to put up with a drama queen. But you need to in case she decides to go wail and pound on an attorney’s desk after you give her a severance package.  You will need to prove that you went above and beyond the call of duty in helping the Drama Queen.

“Don’t Be Cruel”

Do not let her go during the first year of widowhood. 

If you do that, just sign your company over to her as there is not a judge or jury that will side with you, even if your employee is a drama queen. 

Letting someone go their first year of widowhood is cruel – period, end of story. 


  • No one grieves perfectly
  • Every person grieves differently
  • The nature of their relationship affects how she grieves (strained, head over heals in love)
  • The circumstances of the death affect her grief (murder, plane crash, hit & run etc…)
  • She was a good employee before her world got turned upside down, inside out and backwards in the blink of an eye.

 If you are confronted with the sudden death of a spouse, you might turn into a Drama Queen or King. 

You never know how you will react until you are in the same situation.

10 Plan Ideas

First Things First

There needs to be a meeting her first day back.  Those attending the meeting need to be her immediate supervisor and his/her supervisor and any member of upper management interested in her wellbeing.  The meeting’s purpose is to express support and a willingness to help her perform at the level you need. 

You may expect her to know what she needs but trust me the only thing she knows is her name and that she has a dead husband and now she is back to work with the expectation of performing as if nothing happened.


In the time it takes to blink her world was turned upside down, inside out and backwards at the same time.

Plan Ideas

  • Weekly Meetings– Hold weekly meetings to find out how she is feeling. Also discuss, set and review performance milestones designed to get her meeting job requirements.     
  • Job Buddy – Someone who knows her job and can provide support and assistance.
  • Feelings – Don’t force her to “stuff” her feelings.  Shoving feelings deep down inside will make her ill. It is not good for her mental or physical well-being.
  • Physical Health – Encourage her to see her doctor so she and her family know her health status.  Remember, I was told the chance of me becoming ill and dying before the second anniversary was great. 
  • Grief Counseling – Allow her time off to seek grief counseling either from a trained professional or a support group such as Griefshare.  
  • Holidays – The holidays are going to be especially tough the first year.  Her performance will probably suffer during these times so you may as well let her have time off for holidays and special family events.
  • Her Story – Let her share her story with co-workers so they have some understanding of what she had been through.  This can be done at a meeting if she feels up to it or through a Grief Letter she writes explaining:

The details of her husband’s death. (as much as she is willing to share)

Thanking everyone for their support.

Advising them what she needs to get through her grief journey.

Plan Ideas To Help Re-engage Her Brain

  • Special Projects – Let her have input on a special project going on in the office.  Nothing major like mergers, but something simple like:

         Member of the Potluck Committee.

Input on the color scheme for the new carpet, walls, or cubicles. 

Input on who to put where during the next round of “Musical Cubicles.”

You get the idea.  Something simple, different and gives her something “new” to focus on for a while, which can be refreshing. 

  • Exercise Group – Start an exercise group that walks up and down the stairs for morning and/or afternoon break.  If there are no stairs then walk around either the inside or outside of the building. 
  • Lunch Time Book Club – Again something different for the widow to focus on.  Keep the reading material on the lighter side.

I Know, I Know

I know this is a lot to ask of employers and I hear lots of grumbling as I write this post.  Just remember these suggestions are based on my experience.  You can implement these or come up with different ideas. 

Your Choices

You have two choices:

    • Work together in developing a plan so she can perform at the level you need.
    • Leave her flopping around on the dock like a fish out of water.  Maybe she is able to perform at the level needed without any help and maybe not.

 Which would you prefer if your life changed in the time it takes to blink?

  Coming tomorrow – Drama Queens

The Answer

Author’s Note: No scientific evidence or cold hard statistics here folks, just an answer based on my experience. 

What Happened? 

I suddenly became a widow at an age society considers to be “young.”

I did not see Joe’s death coming. The night before he was vibrant, energetic, and having fun figuring out which TV and TV cart to use for the DVD player I brought his and his roommate. He was looking forward to getting through rehab and coming home so he could walk Rommie.

The next morning he was gone.

What My Doctor Said

The odds of my becoming ill and dying within two years were great.

She did not say how great and I was too shocked and chicken to ask. Try living with that thought in the back of your head. Sometimes it makes its way to the front of your head and you have to work on pushing it back.

An example of this is me not finding a job and thinking:

“Well, guess the reason I am not getting interview or job offers is because I will be dead by the second anniversary.”

Grief messes with your mind.

Year One

The First Year:

  • I wandered aimlessly without desire or motivation. I sat on the couch or laid in bed on weekends to “store up” energy to drag my sorry behind into work the next week.
  • I knew who Michele and Joe were but now it was just Michele. Who was I no that I was single again?
  • The only reason I got out of bed each morning was to let Rommie (golden retriever daughter) outside as I did not want to lie in bed smelling pee and poo.
  • Ther was a fair amount of paperwork I had to do in order to get everything transferred into my name and get debts paid off or reduced so I could handle the monthly bills.
  • Just because I made it through the first year, did not mean I had made it 100% through lmy grief journey and was completely whole again.

Year Two

The Second Year:

  • My Mind became clouded with grief from losing my job.
  • My mind was still somewhat foggy from losing Joe.
  • I had to figure out who I was as a person and a professional.
  • I had some desire and motivation but not the amount I wanted or needed.
  • Had another 12 months to deal with the fact odds were against my making it to the second anniversary.

The Answer

Based on what I went through, the answer to how long do you wait before telling a grieving employee –

“I’m sorry, but we need you to perform at the level this job requires or we’ll have to let you go.


is Two (2) years. 

Undoubtedly you have either choked on your cinnamon roll or spit coffee out your nose at the thought of dealing with a grieving widow for two years.

The Next Step

Now that you know my answer, work with her in developing a plan to bring her back up to speed. If you work with her I doubt it will take 2 years for her performance to be at the level you need.



Coming tomorrow – Ideas for developing a plan. 


“Deep Impact”


(Author’s note: This week’s articles are designed to provide an employer with information about helping an employee experiencing sudden widowhood at an age society considers “young.”

Today’s article is an attempt to get you to understand sudden widowhood. I use the word attempt because however, I describe it the description is not accurate enough.)


What Happened

The best way I know to describe what happened to your employee is:

the scene in Deep Impact where Jenny Lerner (Tea Leoni) and her father Jason Lerner (Maximillan Schell) are standing on the beach waiting for the first tsunami wave to engulf them after the comet hits earth.

An emotional tsunami has engulfed your employee.

The Pain

The best description of the pain she is feeling is:

her heart was ripped out ad put into a mortar and is being ground 24/7 with a pestle. No matter how much grinding is done, her heart is like a jawbreaker and never gets any smaller.

Feelings, woo-o feelings (Morris Albert)

Other feelings she might be dealing with are loneliness, abandonment, loss of identity, and lack of self-esteem. You name the emotion and if she is not feeling it now, there is a good chance she will feel it later.

For example – I did not hit the “anger” stage until six months after Joe died. It was just one of those days where every little thing went wrong. I slammed my car door every chance I got while saying more than a few unpleasant things to Joe. Luckily, my 2004 Saturn Ion survived the abuse.


Healthy Choice

Letting her deal with grief is not only healthy but a positive and productive step in the recovery process.

If she stuffs her negative feelings inside she is hooking herself to an I.V. bottle of poison, attaching it to a rack and rolling it around for the rest of her life.

In case you did not realize it –

Poison Kills


Maybe suddenly or maybe over months of years but the poison those negative emotions cause will slowly eat away at her mental and physical wellbeing.

By the way, this is true for anyone who stuffs their grief inside, not just us widows.


Life Is A Highway (Tom Cochrane)

Sudden widowhood is a nightmarish journey some of us must take while traveling life’s highway. It is not fun but it is a learning and growing experience. Once she gets through this journey she will be a better employee.

Don’t you want an employee who is able to endure being engulfed by an emotional tsunami, slowly ascend through the wave and break through the crest?

Imagine what she will do for your company – the possibilities are endless.


Coming tomorrow: The answer to “How Long?”


Bio: Michele Kearns is the founder and HUG© (Hope Unites Globally) Award-Winner of JoyReturns. She shares her widowhood adventures hoping to encourage widows to move through grief and rebuild their lives. A graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor’s degree in communications, she’s used those skills while managing call center teams, facilitating a grief support group and helping small businesses with various writing and administrative assignments. Michele is a bookworm, lover of chocolate, red roses and golden retrievers and is an amateur photographer.



Mortar and Pestal Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

Cell Photo by Christopher Windus on Unsplash

Wave Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Intro To Week Of May16th – May 20th

JT, a friend with a human resources background and Founder of, recently asked how long a company should keep a grieving person on staff before saying –

“I’m sorry, but we need you to perform at the level this job requires or we’ll have to let you go.”

The answer will come next week along with articles addressing:

  • Resources
  • Dealing with drama queens
  • Helping the widow upon her return
  • Why the company should help the widow


What I have to say is based on my personal experience as someone who was suddenly widowed at an age society considers “young. 

Personal experience is life’s best teacher.

See you Monday.  Have a safe and wonderful weekend.

"Lilacs From Me To You"

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