In the days since my boss's death, I've seen grief in every form.
I've seen the people who are business as usual - the ones who grieved on Monday and acted like nothing ever happened on Tuesday. I've seen the people who are do-ers. They go, go, go, and by working extra hard, extra long hours, they push death to the back of their minds. I've seen the talkers. The ones who want to analyze and discuss every aspect of this event, pouring over every detail. I've seen the criers, the comforters, and the angered.
And then, there's me.
I'm fine, and then I'm not. I'm smiling, and then I catch a glimpse of an email, or I look over to my phone and see his phone line still listed, and I break down. I hear someone talk about "what's next," and I have to walk away.
I'm not ready to move on. And I'm learning that it's an interesting dynamic when you lose someone at work. This is the first time someone I've worked so closely with has died, and I'm having to figure a few things out along the way.
The first is that when you mix dozens of people grieving together in a confined area, it's bound to create tension. What someone says or does that pisses me off may not have any impact on my coworkers, but what I say or do might make them equally upset. It's a giant melting pot of different emotions, and they don't mix well together. While many people do respect the different ways we grieve, there are just as many who don't.
The second is that it seems impossible to balance this grief with work. I went and spoke to a grief counselor Wednesday, and we talked for most of the session about this point. Even though I understood that people were dealing with their grief in different ways, the pace at which everything seemed to be moving felt wrong. Disrespectful, even. How do we find a balance between crying constantly and working as if nothing ever happened? Is it possible to work sadly? How do we honor his memory without stopping the processes that must continue?
It's almost too much to handle.
Those of us who worked closely with my boss were offered the chance to take time off. As much as we need. Yet somehow, I chose to stay. Staying and pretending like things were okay felt a tiny bit better than sitting at home sobbing into a bowl of ice cream.
It's what he would have wanted. He was a go getter. He worked as if nothing was wrong up until the day before he passed away. He never told people he had terminal cancer. He never told people that he was in pain, even though those of us closest to him could see it in his face. He just . . . did. Worked. Pushed. Moved forward.
So despite the fact that sometimes it doesn't feel right at times to work, despite the fact that there are times when I need to step in the ladies' room and sob, despite the fact that there are times when I need to go into my other boss's office and hide - even if only for five minutes - and make time stand still, I keep coming. If anything, the best way for me to honor him is to do the same. To work, push, and move forward toward healing. To keep things running just as he'd left them.
Working and grieving. Together. It's a funny thing.