I went back into my office this week for a meeting and to work for a few hours. It was the first time I have been in the building to do actual work since March 12, 2020. In early 2021, I did go in to pack up my little cube so they could shift me to a new desk a few rows away.
So that meant this week, I had to walk in a new person, unpack my desk, and greet coworkers I haven’t seen in over 2 years.
As I started unpacking, the photos I had in my cabinet were all outdated. My oldest is no longer in karate, my middle one quit baseball after Dad died, and my youngest doesn’t have those sweet baby cheeks that hold on through kindergarten. There was only a single picture of our whole family, taken and framed in 2015. I wish I had forced family photos more often. Lastly, there were the pictures of Tony and I together, at weddings and on vacations.
What am I supposed to do with all of these at work? Do I put them on display for everyone to see? Will his smiling face distract me at work and bring the grief bubbling up in the place I want it least? Am I betraying him if I don’t include him in my office landscape? I don’t know yet. For the time, I gently tucked most of the outdated and coupled photos of us back into my cabinet. They are there if I want them, I don’t have to decide right now. I give myself that grace and vow to print out more updated pictures of the children.
I am fortunate enough to work for a company with a companionate culture that is focused on connectedness. Over the last 16 years, I have worked here twice for a total of 14 years, so I have a variety of friends across the company.
I have made a conscience effort these last 11 months to show up at the occasional work happy hour, bridal shower, etc. so that I could check that first greeting post loss off the list with people. This opportunity to ease into it, is a privilege I realize I am lucky to have. I am sure it is a different challenge to walk in immediately in the ‘after’ and navigate the onslaught of condolences.
As I walked the halls and ordered a latte from our Café, I ran into a variety of coworkers past and present. Some extended their condolences; one asked about Christmas and then quickly offered a way out of the conversation if I didn’t want to talk about it. Others just gave me a hug and a smile in passing. No one offered me a platitude.
I walked into work a different person this week, and I left that same different person. Yet, I also left thankful for my work people. I am fortunate to work in a culture that fosters relationships like the ones I’ve built over the last 16 years. The spirit of connectedness is still present, even though we’ve been working from home the last 2 years. Some of my coworkers have seen me through my engagement, wedding, 3 babies and now death. I have no doubt they will continue to see me through whatever comes next.