Grief and loss in the library: Demonstrating compassion without burning out
This Engaging in Practice session will cover strategies for how library workers can support one another when one of their colleagues is suffering, and how bereavement can sometimes lead to post-traumatic growth in individuals who have experienced loss. Through sharing my story of loss and leading reflective exercises, I hope to help those managing the death of someone close to them or supporting someone in their workplace who is bereaved, doing good work when it can sometimes feel pointless to try.
There is a small amount of scholarship in the LIS and academic literature about bereavement and its effects on higher education workers. For example, a piece in C&RL News published in April 2016 discussed the strategies that several librarians used for coping with the death of a close colleague and friend. Bereavement leaves and benefits for grieving employees vary widely across workplaces, and libraries are no different.
Taking the time to think through what you intend in your individual approach to support a grieving colleague can help you to be more present, more true to your comfort level, and more genuine in your relationship to them. In this session, participants will reflect on techniques that they might use when assisting colleagues with developing benchmarks for professional expectations, while managing their own personal responses to bereavement. Participants will also identify formal and informal support systems that they feel comfortable sharing with the bereaved. Participants will also learn about post-traumatic growth, an explosive period of change and achievement during and after loss. Participants can elect to share their own personal stories, but this is not required to be engaged with this session. Participants are expected to keep the stories of others confidential to the session, and are encouraged to reflect on the experience and its potential effect on their work.