Planning for bereavement in the business place

In life, we are told, there are only two absolute certainties — death and taxes. But while most people have no hesitation acknowledging the need for assistance in facing the challenges presented by taxes, it’s often a different story when the specter of coping with death arises.

Both in their business and personal lives, many people are reluctant to reach out for help in a time of bereavement. Coping with grief remains a subject that is often seen by many as, at best, an uncomfortable one. This, despite the fact that it’s the one experience that will eventually touch everyone.

Given the current demographics in America, knowing how to plan and cope with loss has never been more challenging. Often referred to as “The Sandwich Generation,” about one in eight Americans between the ages of 40 and 60 are both caring for an aging parent while also raising their own children. As a result, many workers face the possibility of having to plan a parent’s funeral while also dealing with their own parental responsibilities. The emotional and financial challenges this duality creates can sometimes be overwhelming and impact both their business and personal lives.


Coping with the heightened emotions surrounding death doesn’t mitigate the logistical needs resulting from the death of a loved one. From planning funeral services to informing relatives and friends and, in the case of an executor, handling the multiple financial and taxation matters relating to the departed’s estate, the complications associated with death often make a difficult situation even more emotionally challenging. Not surprisingly, the logistical demands resulting from the death of a relative can greatly overshadow the emotional needs and demands surrounding grief. In both their personal and professional lives, too many people suppress their emotions out of concern that it will be negatively perceived in the workplace.

From an employer’s point of view, providing support programs for staff coping with bereavement should be considered an important benefit for employees. For example, our company — Palms Memorial — offers a group program called “Grief Share” at no charge to those wishing to attend meetings. While not a replacement for therapy, it is a place where those experiencing loss can share their grief with others.

When pre-planning memorial services, it’s wise to include programs that will assist in coping with grief. Many people find comfort in being able to help shape how they will be remembered after their passing. As a result, a growing number of people create “prearrangements,” which allow their mourning friends and relatives to hold a pre-planned “Celebration of Life” that often includes the departed’s favorite music, as well as pre-selected foods at their service, and other details involving their memorial.


As part of their employee benefits package, many companies offer an employee assistance program (EAP), designed to help staff during their bereavement, including time off and counseling services. There is little doubt about the need for such programs: each year, it’s estimated that 2.4 million workers lose a loved one, resulting in over $75 billion in lost productivity.

As part of their EAP, employers often include plans such as the Dignity Memorial Funeral Benefit. With no additional cost to employers or their staff, this benefit educates employees about the many tasks involved in planning a memorial service and cemetery arrangements. This type of benefit also provides discounts on burial or cremation products, as well as grief support and bereavement-related travel services.

On average, employers with bereavement leave policies offer about three days of paid leave per loss. The number of bereavement days offered can vary, depending on whether the loss involves immediate relatives (i.e. parents, spouses, siblings or children) or more extended family.


Making the necessary plans to deal with a death can be financially stressful. While funeral costs vary, the average cost of a funeral is between $7,000 to $8,000, with additional legal costs, such as selling a home or settling an estate, which can often rise into the thousands of dollars.

In today’s employment market, where many companies often struggle to fill positions, generous bereavement benefits can help make an employer a more desirable choice.

The grieving process also often takes a very real human toll. Recent surveys found that as many as 93 percent of employees suffered from at least one physical or mental symptom after a loss, while 83 percent reported feelings of anxiety. In addition, about one in three people suffered four or more grief-related symptoms including weight gain, anger and irritability and memory impairment that can last up to several months.


Employers who provide their staff with increased work flexibility and offer assistance and resources in response to personal bereavement will likely find that their employees aren’t the only ones to receive benefits; the kindness and help provided employees during a period of grief is seldom forgotten, and for employers the rewards over time will likely include increased staff retention and commitment to the company.

While it’s a truism that death is one of life’s inevitabilities, how an individual or business responds to that loss remains a choice to be made. From both a personal and business perspective, choosing to offer generous support during a period of bereavement is almost always the right choice to make.

Celena DiLullo is president of Palm Mortuaries and Cemeteries, which has been serving the Southern Nevada community since 1926. It started with one funeral home and now has 10 funeral homes and six cemeteries. Historic Palm Downtown has the very first mausoleum in Southern Nevada, and Palm also has the only Jewish funeral home and cemetery combination location in Nevada. Palm protects the community through prearrangements made by many families ahead of time to ensure their loved ones know their wishes are carried out, and it serves families during the most difficult time of suffering a loss. More information can be accessed at

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