Twenty-five years ago, when my daughter Dawn died from a heart problem, I was working on my first doctorate. It seemed impossible for me to continue, when just getting dressed in the morning was a great accomplishment.

Dr. Webber, the chair of my dissertation committee, advised me to continue on with school, reminding me that if I didn’t, I would lose my much-desired place as a doctoral student. At the time, I thought this was really unkind, and some perverse idea of tough-love.

I told him that I would have to take time off, and that I would try to return the next semester, reasoning that my life was going to go on, and I would have to choose what that would mean… not only for me, but for my husband and my son.

Upon my return, Dr. Webber directed me to a particular classroom where he felt I would have an easier transition. I sat in the back of that class, quietly weeping for one week and finally, went over to the professor to explain my situation. I told him I didn’t want him to think I was having a nervous breakdown, but that I had just lost my child and had no business being in this class. He kindly invited me to sit down and proceeded to tell me of the loss of his child, who died in a train crash at the age of 18.

He then suggested that I do my best, ask for help when I needed it and assured me that I could reach out to both he and my fellow students to ease my burden.

Years later, when I wrote my book, “The Only Way Out Is Through,” I realized how these very steps suggested by my professor were the same steps needed to re-enter the workplace.

Here are the steps to help you re-enter the workplace after loss:

1. Reach out to your boss and co-workers, tell them of your loss… and ask for help when needed. Share some of your burden. This is how we bond with people and become intimate. Surprisingly, people want to help, and studies show that when you let people in, when you let them help you, they like you more, because they feel invested in you.

2. Be gentle and treat yourself like your own child. Let yourself have your grief, knowing that if you let it wash over you, you will experience relief and can move forward once again. People who grieve, who allow themselves to have their grief, can live again. The key is to find balance, so that you also move, taking baby steps back into life.

3. Take action. Aristotle said that action, no matter what kind, is a positive. It reinstates a sense of control and stability. Consciously and deliberately, try to get back to some form of routine, even if you are just going through the motions. Remember to allow yourself down time each day, to rest, lower your defenses, and focus on your grief… then, step back into some form of activity. It is important to know that, at first, you will simply be taking baby steps – washing your face, getting dressed – but ultimately, little by little, if you allow yourself a designated time each day to grieve, you will find meaning once again in your life.

4. Have perspective. 
Remember Peggy Lee singing to you, “Is That All There Is?” That is the most valuable insight that comes from grief. You get a perspective on life, because now sadly, you know how fragile it is. And you can choose for yourself whether the time you have left in your life will be constructive or destructive.

You suddenly recognize that what you do with your life, whatever it is, will use up the seconds, the minutes, the hours, and the days. So, perspective gives you a chance to reflect on your friends, family, work experience, and future. Joining groups, such as “Compassionate Friends,” gives you a safe and contained space in which to contemplate and discuss these decisions and challenges.

The important thing, however, is to always give yourself time before making life-altering changes…and, listen to your own inner voice, that resource that can lead you out of the darkness and into the light.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.