What Is Bereavement: Definition and Work Policies (What You Need to Know)

what is bereavement
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As an employee, you may require time away from work to attend to funeral arrangements, or other matters, or to grieve the loss of a loved one. Many employers have policies in place for bereavement leave. Learning more about them may help you decide what to do in this situation. In this article, we define the concept of bereaved leave, then bereavement pay, counseling, and all about the term in a work environment. Let’s get into detail!

What Is Bereavement?

The experience of losing someone important to us is known as bereavement. It is defined by grief, which is the process and range of emotions we experience as we gradually adjust to the loss. Losing someone close to us, whether a partner, family member, friend, or pet, can be emotionally devastating. It is normal to go through a variety of physical and emotional processes as we adjust to the loss.

Bereavement affects everyone differently, and anyone can experience a wide range of emotions. There is no correct or incorrect way to feel.

What is Bereaved Leave?

Bereavement leave, also known as bereaved leave, is a workplace policy that allows employees to take time off after the death of a family member or friend. The loss can affect your emotional state as well as your ability to perform at work. Companies’ policies on bereavement differ. Bereavement leave, for example, may be paid or unpaid depending on your employer. Make sure you understand the company’s leave policies and ask questions about them.

Does the Law Require Employers to Provide Bereaved Leave?

The majority of state laws do not require employers to provide bereavement leave, and neither does federal labor law. It is frequently a topic of discussion between you and the human resources department at your workplace. Companies frequently implement leave policies to establish expectations for what to do when an employee loses a loved one. These policies provide a general framework for companies to use to address unique circumstances. For example, if you are dealing with a difficult family situation, you may be able to request more time.

If you are a member of a union, you may be able to negotiate a new bereavement policy if the company does not have one. A union can also assist you in negotiating new terms for an existing policy or in requesting new terms for exceptional circumstances. This could include determining the length, rules, and limitations of a policy and incorporating it into an employee handbook.

How Long Does Bereavement Last?

The length of bereavement is determined by a number of factors. The relationship between the employee and the deceased is the most common distinction in types of leave. Employees typically receive three days of bereavement leave for the death of an immediate family member.

This type of leave frequently includes:

  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Foster children, stepchildren, and children
  • Domestic partners or spouses
  • Grandparents, in-laws, and stepparents

However, many employers provide up to two weeks of paid leave, with the possibility of additional time as an unpaid benefit. Unpaid bereavement leave may have a time limit depending on the company. It is customary to provide at least one day of paid leave to non-immediate family members, though some organizations provide more.

Many employers also provide a brief four-hour leave to attend a coworker’s funeral or memorial service. While the decedent’s relationship is frequently used to determine how much leave an employee is entitled to, this practice is becoming obsolete. People from different and more complex relationships as the family structure shifts away from the “nuclear” stereotype.

Do Employers Have to Pay Employees for Bereavement Leave?

Employers who allow their employees to take bereavement leave for a loss are not required to pay employees for the leave time unless required to do so by a collective bargaining agreement or employment agreement.

Employers provide bereavement leave as both paid and unpaid time off. Some employers provide a few days of bereavement pay, while others may not provide bereavement pay but will allow you to take time off work. Some may offer a combination of the two if you have exhausted your allotted bereavement days but still require additional time. If your work environment does not have a bereavement policy, consider discussing your situation with your supervisor or the human resources department to alleviate any concerns about job security.

When can I use Bereaved Leave?

When a direct family member or close relative dies, you can take bereavement leave. Some employers may also allow you to take time off after the death of a close friend or even a pet. Because grief affects people in a variety of ways, businesses have recognized the need for understanding and flexibility.

Organizations frequently provide varying amounts of leave time based on your relationship with the deceased individual, so read the employee handbook to learn about specific rules. Depending on their policies, you may be able to use this time in a variety of ways. For example, you could take three consecutive days off, or you could take two days off one week and another day off the next.

What Does a Typical Bereaved Leave Policy Include?

Sections of a bereavement policy may include the following:

#1. Guidelines

This section typically includes details about attending the funeral, managing financial or personal details, and recovering mentally and emotionally.

#2. Eligibility

The policy may specify who is eligible for bereavement leave. For example, the company may limit the policy to full-time employees or to situations involving the death of immediate relatives.

#3. Procedures

This section of the bereavement leave policy can help you and other team members understand how to request a leave of absence and provide information about the available benefits.

#4. Duration

Bereavement leave policies may also specify whether and how you can convert paid leave to unpaid leave. Understanding your company’s policies can help you make better decisions and prepare for unexpected events.

What is Bereavement Counseling?

Bereavement counseling (also known as “grief counseling”) assists and supports people who are experiencing emotional and psychological stress as a result of the death of a loved one. Accepting loss and dealing with the emotions that accompany it can be difficult. While many people can cope with bereavement on their own, others may require professional assistance in the form of counseling.

Bereavement counseling is also a type of therapy that helps people work through the stages and emotions of grief after a loss. Counseling can help people avoid some of the more severe symptoms of bereavement or grief and process their emotions in a healthy way.

What are the Primary Objectives of Bereavement Counseling?

The following are the primary goals of bereavement counseling:

#1. Accept the Loss

Coming to terms with the reality of a loss is one of the first and most important steps in working through bereavement either at work or anywhere. Denial is a natural reaction that allows people to pace their grief and the pain that comes with it. Individuals must learn to acknowledge their loss in order to truly cope with and heal from grief.

#2. Work Through the Pain

Many people try to avoid and suppress their emotions in the aftermath of a loss and grief. This only adds to their misery. Experiencing and persevering in the face of grief is an essential part of coping.

#3. Adjust to Life

When people suffer from grief, it is usually because they have lost someone or something that was a significant part of their lives. Adapting to a loss can be extremely difficult, even feeling like a betrayal. This logic can leave people feeling trapped. Grief counseling can assist people in reorienting and restructuring their lives following a loss.

#4. Maintain a Connection

While accepting a loss and adjusting to life after it is important steps in the bereavement process, it is also critical to keep a connection to what was lost. When a loved one passes away, for example, it can be beneficial for the bereaved to remember the joy that the person brought rather than focusing solely on the pain of the person’s absence.

What is Proof of Loss?

It is up to the specific company, as with other details related to bereavement, to decide if they want proof of loss from their employee. In most cases, a death certificate suffices to establish loss. A death certificate, however, may not be available depending on your relationship with the person.

Other types of documentation could include a prayer card, a funeral program, or simply the deceased’s name. When you make your leave request, human resources should be able to provide an easy answer about what documentation is required to prove the loss.

Is Proof Required to Take Bereavement Leave?

It is up to your company to decide whether employees must provide documentation or proof of death to take bereavement leave, which you should outline in your bereavement leave policy.

Requiring proof can be awkward, and you may come across as insensitive, so approach the situation with compassion. If you decide to require proof, make it as simple for the employee as possible, and consider allowing the employee to submit the proof after they have returned to work.

Are Bereavement and Funeral Leave the Same?

Funeral leave and bereavement leave are not the same things. Some employers allow employees to take leave only for the duration of the funeral. They do not provide employees with additional time to mourn the loss of a loved one. Employer policies may refer to this type of leave as funeral or bereavement leave. Bereavement leave typically allows employees to take time off to attend a funeral while also allowing the employee to grieve.

What if my Employer doesn’t Offer Bereaved Leave?

If your company does not have a formal bereavement leave policy, you may still be able to take time off after the death of a loved one. Some employers may request that you take time off under the company’s sick leave policies or use your vacation time instead. You could look into the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows for unpaid leave in certain circumstances. The FMLA does not generally allow leave for grief, but you can request unpaid leave to care for a loved one for medical reasons.

What does your Bereavement Mean?

The experience of losing someone important to us is known as bereavement. It is defined by grief, which is the process and range of emotions we experience as we gradually adjust to the loss. Losing someone close to us, whether a partner, family member, friend, or pet, can be emotionally devastating.

How do you Write a Bereavement Letter?

Keep it simple and heartfelt – starting the letter can be the most difficult part, but simply saying “I’m so sorry to hear about [their name] and I want you to know I’m thinking about you” is a good way to start.”

What is Bereavement Treatment?

Bereavement therapy or treatment is a type of therapy aimed at those who are grieving.

What are the Factors of Bereavement?

Beliefs about death, religious upbringing, and cultural factors can all have an impact on the bereavement and grieving process.

What is Another name for Bereavement Leave?

It is also known as bereavement leave or compassionate leave.

Is Bereavement a Stressor?

Grief, like many other stressors, has been shown in studies to cause changes in the endocrine, immune, autonomic nervous, and cardiovascular systems, all of which are fundamentally influenced by brain function and neurotransmitters.


Bereavement leave gives employees the emotional space they need to deal with both the logistical and emotional aspects of a family member’s death in a healthy way. It is a preventative measure that is critical in promoting mental health both in and out of the workplace. The good news is that any employer can opt to provide bereavement leave. If you want to take or give one, this guide is a good place to start. Happy reading!


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