Doing more meaningful work after bereavement

My husband died in the early part of the Covid pandemic. I had been caring for him and have spent the last months just struggling to put one foot in front of the other. However, I have come to a point where I think that I cannot continue in the job I am doing. I want to make a difference and leave something behind – perhaps something that will in some way celebrate my husband, but I am not sure where to begin. He was a teacher and very interested in mental health issues. I was also thinking whether I could use my experience of bereavement to help others. Where would you suggest I start?

Trees Sizzling Minerals


It’s entirely understandable that you’re thinking about legacy; what difference you and your husband will have made in the world.

Try gentle exploration rather than a fully-fledged job search and career change. You’ll be feeling vulnerable for a while and competitive interviews aren’t much fun. The best way to explore what might become meaningful work for you is to
sample and experiment.

I don’t know if you need an income, but if you are happy to step away from work for a while that might help, but plan to be active. Imagine you were doing a bit of career research for a friend, and involve as many conversations as possible to see what doors open. Try on ideas by hearing about other people’s experiences.

Begin with all the themes that interest you – helping other people grow, supporting those with mental health issues, or bereavement. Reach out through friends and family until you find at least one person working in each area, and ask
for a short conversation to help you explore.

You don’t have to approach people cold – ask for warm introductions. Spending time with people in interesting roles means you will understand whether the work fits what you need, and what you might need to do to match your experience to show that you’re useful.

Sampling also means trying things out – this is a good time to volunteer in short bursts, to observe, to see how things get done. That way you can decide if might want to focus on one thing in the future, or several.

*John Lees is one of the UK’s best-known career strategists and author of 15 books on work and careers. How to Get a Job You Love (now in its eleventh edition) regularly tops the list of best-selling careers books by a British author and was twice selected as the WH Smith Business Book of the Month.

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