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Lynne finds workplace support helped her cope with grief and loss

More than 50 per cent of employees will have experienced a bereavement in the last five years and every day, more than 600 people leave work to look after older and disabled relatives.

Death and the way it impacts on working lives, though, remains one of those subjects that many people still feel uncomfortable about.

And that is why Dying Matters Awareness Week – which this year runs from May 8 to 14 – is specifically encouraging communities across the country to come together to talk about death, dying and grief in the workplace.

Every year, people around the country use Dying Matters Awareness Week as a moment to encourage all communities to get talking in whatever way, shape or form works for them.

Lynne Ghasemi is a Senior Sister in the Project ECHO Team at St Luke’s and deals with the issues surrounding terminal illness and death on a daily basis.

Yet it was only when her own mother became ill that she came to understand how the issues surrounding death and bereavement impacted on every aspect of her life, including the working day.

“My mum was 89 when she died and had been ill for a long time but particularly over the last year of her life,” Lynne explains.

“She lived in Colchester and was being looked after by my dad but he was the same age and needed support so in that last year I was up and down the country like a yo-yo.

“She was under the care of her local hospice which meant a lot to us all and they were incredibly supportive but what I needed to know personally was the reassurance that work was able to support and accommodate me during a really challenging time and the unpredictability of not knowing when I was suddenly going to get a call in the middle of the day at work to say that mum had taken a turn for the worse.

“What was important was to know was that work understood and could accommodate and allow a degree of flexible working and recognise that I might have to take short notice leave.

“It was also important to me to be able to talk to managers and be open with them and for them to reassure me that they had an open door and were willing as much as possible to work around me.”

Lynne found that the St Luke’s level of support also extended beyond the point of her mother’s death.

“When mum died there were things to sort out, all the practical stuff, and St Luke’s were fantastic,” she says.

“I remember hearing one of our bereavement team say that bereavement is the process you go through and grief is what you feel and certainly what I found was that you cannot dictate how your emotions are going to be, how you’re going to cope and when things will hit you.

“My dad had become incredibly frail with the strain of looking after mum and he became unwell for a while and I guess that in that period I put my emotions on hold.

“But I remember one day pulling into the St Luke’s car park and for some reason the floodgates opened.

“It was probably the relief that I had done everything I needed to and also knowing that I was coming into a very caring organisation where people are extremely supportive.

“That meant a lot because I knew that work cared and that they were invested in me as a person and as an employee and being part of an organisation like that makes you feel valued.

“That’s why it was such a relief when I was told to come back to work only when I was ready and I know that I am lucky because I am sure that a lot of companies cannot accommodate that.”

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