2. Reclaiming my workspace

A story based on an account from a Loss Survivor.

“After many months off work, it was now time to return to my workplace.  The loss event was still clear in my mind and I was feeling very anxious in having to return.

I was not exactly sure of the causes of my anxiety because my mind was flicking between the loss event, the people involved, my professional image, my duties, changes that had happened in the workplace since I had left and many other images.

Leading up to my date of return, I had many sleepless nights because my mind was replaying all events leading up to my departure; I realised that I needed to see my doctor to help me become calm.

In speaking with my doctor about my anxieties, we discussed at length why I was feeling this way and what triggered the images in my mind.  The discussion was extremely useful for me to understand why, for after so long, I still had raw loss feelings about some images.


During our discussion, we wrote down a plan for me to follow in preparing for my return to work and then another plan to follow upon my return to work.  The reason for the two plans was because the first plan was for immediate practice and I was in my safe place when applying it.  The second plan was to help me transition my safe place feelings into my workplace.  As with all plans, they were flexible and I was in control of changing them whenever I felt it was needed.

The first plan included:

  • finding my safe place and collect my calming items
  • identify what triggered the images in my mind
  • when these images occur, touch my calming items and apply calming techniques
  • write in my journal about my feelings and how I managed them
  • talk to a trusted person about how I am preparing to return to work
  • if not already arranged, make contact with the authorised support person/s in the workplace (i.e. your manager, Human Resource representative) and if needed, ask for a return to work plan.

Note: A calming item can include small items such as a river pebble, a tiny figurine, a piece of fabric; all of which you can keep in your pocket and no-one else will notice you have it with you.

Note: Speak with your doctor about the type of calming techniques you could practice which are best suited to your needs.

The second plan included:

  • make direct contact with your authorised support person/s on your first day
  • take a calming item from your safe place and keep it in contact with you at your workplace
  • when an anxiety is triggered, touch your calming item and practice your calming techniques
  • if further issues occur at your workplace where you do not feel safe, do not ignore them; take immediate action and speak with your authorised support person/s
  • at the end of each working day, journalise your day’s activities highlighting your achievements, the challenges, how you faced them and acknowledge and congratulate yourself for being courageous.

Further suggestions in preparing for my return to work included organising my work clothes, refresh my general appearance by visiting the hairdresser, dentist or other grooming therapist, get a watch and diarise appointments and commitments.  In general, these suggestions made me feel comfortable with my image and organised in my responsibilities.”

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