Science Careers Blog

May 12, 2008

After a death in the family ...

Marci Alboher, the New York Times careers columnist, posted an entry on her blog last week about the conflicts and guilt generated about trying to do one's work after a death in the family. A death occurred in Alboher's own family, and she reported on her own conflicts and guilt. For anyone who has lost a close family member recently -- and even if you haven't -- it is worth a read.

After a death in the family, your first responsibility is to other family members. But as Alboher notes, there are often times when not much is going on and you're tempted to check in with the work place, via telephone or e-mail. That's where the internal conflicts kick in.

For scientists in the a lab or engineers working on a tightly scheduled project, losing a family member can cause serious disruptions in work schedules, even where fellow lab or project partners pull together to help out a buddy in crisis.  While companies or institutions may have policies about taking time off for bereavement, it is difficult to predict how much time a person needs to reconnect with work. As Alboher says, "So here I am, physically back at work, and wondering when my mind will join me back in the office."

While Alboher's post is personal, perhaps part of her own grieving process, it's a reminder of the need to expect the unexpected and build connections with your colleagues for when the unexpected happens.

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