Work after Death: An Examination of the Relationship Between Grief, Emotional Labour, and the Lived Experience of Returning to Work after a Bereavement

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The lived experience of returning to work after a bereavement remains relatively under researched. Within sociology, the notion of emotional labour has been explored at length, but the place and experience of grief in the workplace is less well understood. This research, framed by Hochschild’s work on feeling rules, focuses on professional individuals working in UK companies who agreed to discuss their experiences of returning to work after a bereavement, in terms of dealing with their own emotions and those of their colleagues, as well as navigating company policy in the area of compassionate leave. Qualitative data from seven semi-structured interviews were analysed, exposing key common emotional and experiential themes, particularly regarding disenfranchised grief, comfort in the familiarity of the work environment, and the impact of silent or awkward responses from colleagues. The emergent themes from the data were used to address the research objective of examining the relationship between grief, emotional labour, and the lived experience of returning to work after a bereavement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-484
Number of pages16
JournalSociological Research Online
Issue number3
Early online date17 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

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