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How To Handle The Downside Of Working From Home?

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Almost two months ago, the sale of my employer's local headquarters building gave me the chance to continue working for the company from home. Telecommuting has some great benefits, but I'm also finding out there's a downside.

The benefits:

-- If I have sudden breakdowns or grief attacks during the day (which still happens often), I don't have to try to pretend I'm OK or hide my embarrassment, because no one is there to see or hear me cry and scream.

-- I'm saving much money on gasoline, car maintenance, lunches, and clothing.

-- My work hours are more flexible. As long as I put in enough work time, I can take breaks for errands, etc. during the day.

-- I get to spend more time with my little furbaby (a lhasa-poo).

The problem:

-- My home is filled with reminders of my Bill. Most of the time, that comforts me and helps me feel closer to him. But in some ways, it makes my grief more overwhelming. When I went to a separate office building to work, it seemed to give me a few hours of relief from dwelling on my loss. At home, I can't escape my feelings so I grieve all the time.

Overall, I think the pros of working from home outweigh the cons. But I need your help to figure out some better ways to prevent feeling overwhelmed by spending so much time there. I'll be grateful for any suggestions.

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Hi, Kathy--

I am so very sorry about your loss. It is so draining, this grief. I am so happy that you have a caring company to work with you so you can do work at home. I agree, the pros outweigh the cons. However, I have a question for you: how much are you getting out of the house in a 24-hour period? You see, you hit the nail on the head about getting away from the house to work--it is its own healing to get away from all the thousands of reminders of you and Bill and your life together. Being with your furbaby is not enough reason to stay home if it stunts your healing time by holing up in the house too much.

Please know that I am not sitting in judgment of you in any way. I admire your guts to be able to work and live in a situation that is intolerable at times. We must find our way ourselves, our decisions our own.

My advice to you? Do go back to work at your workplace when you can. Until then, you must get out of the house a minimum of 2-3 times daily to shop, take a walk, etc. And use "good work hygiene" in your work area. I'd remove most, if not all, of the physical triggers of your grief. Keep the pup in your lap, though!

God bless you and may your healing be successful. I care.

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Hi Goddess,

Thanks for your concern and kind words of support.

I do make it a point to get away from the house for at least a half hour every day. And I try to go out to lunch or dinner with friends once or more each week (availability depends on our work schedules).

Someone else suggested that I fix up my back yard to make it more inviting to spend time there. The yard is small, fenced in, and contains only a concrete patio - the rest is all gravel and rocks. Bill and I always intended to glam it up someday, but we never had the chance. But with a few simple changes like a porch swing, table, maybe a fountain and some flowers, maybe that would help?

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I have worked 100% from home for most of the past 25 years, with an interruption of a little over 2 years in the mid 90's to take a more traditional job. I have done this as both a contractor and as an employee, and of course, both before and after Linda died.

I do all my work in a dedicated work area -- a bedroom-turned-office, really -- designed for a minimum of distraction and so somewhat utilitarian. Mentally, this is my workplace, even though incidentally it happens to be located in my home. I don't personally find it a problem, but everyone is different. For one thing I am a fairly strong introvert, and so being alone is not the same for me as being lonely. Given my personality and the kind of work I do (software development) I actually NEED to be alone for long periods of time in order to concentrate, and I'm accustomed to it. Linda, who was also a software developer before she was disabled, understood this need and did not usually interrupt a "work spurt" so mentally the whole activity is in a different place and is really an escape from missing her.

On the other hand her presence here meant that when it was lunch time or break time we most often spent it together, and so those breaks are more monotonous now as well as more of a loss reminder. Recently I invested in cellular broadband service and a decent laptop computer, and this gives me the flexibility to take my work to the patio or to a coffee shop or bookstore or park for a few hours or even all day, when I need a change of scenery. In practice I don't do it that often, but it's nice to have the option. If it weren't for my parrot I could even choose to travel while working part time.

Also, I play piano and organ, and sometimes that is how I spend my break times ... music can be a tonic. I purchased a new piano recently and am in negotiations to upgrade the organ. These are some of the few things that make my pulse quicken a little. You need to pay attention to and develop what you still have any passion at all for. Embrace them without guilt and give yourself permission to be happy, even a little.

Perhaps you can find ways to break up your routine and give yourself something to anticipate, that suit your interests and needs and budget.

There is a balance to be had here, too. You may be grieving more at home, but if it's not excessive that may be speeding you toward a somewhat faster and more thorough resolution. Facing your grief is important too. Remaining in our home, going to our old haunts, etc., has been my way of "leaning into" the grief and letting it have its way with me. It is hard for me to judge how much of a role this had vs other factors -- it's complicated -- but I think I have come to a degree of acceptance at the 9 month mark that is relatively good, and I credit that in part to absorbing the loss full-on a little more than I'd rather.

Ultimately, getting through this is a matter of finding some way to accept the unacceptable. Reality refuses to change, so perversely, it's us that has to change. Working at home, if you can, is just a different opportunity, with different advantages and disadvantages, to learn how to let go. I wouldn't be tempted to change my work situation strictly because of how it impacts my grieving.

Good luck,


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