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Often when I meet with an injured worker one of the first questions I hear is something to the effect of, "How can I work now that I am injured." There are variations of course, but mostly they just don't know how to think about what they can do!
I usually say:
You are most likely a hard worker who wants nothing but to get back to work. You may have been in the same job for a long time. You may fear or have already been told that you will not be able to return to work in the same position. Ever.
What can you do? What should you do?
Fear is often at the core of most unexpected change, and an unexpected work injury is no different.
During the initial phases of an injury medical treatment and your job security may be unclear. The more you can do to clarify your situation, the better you can plan your next steps.
So, what should you do if you have been laid off or out of work due to a work injury?
·Stay in constant communication with your employer - it is important that they understand that you want to come back to work as quickly as possible
·Arrange all documents you receive in a folder in order of oldest to most recent
·Keep a journal of all conversations and events - include dates, times, location, expenses, mileage, and a summary of what was said ordone
·Askquestionsandtakenotesoftheanswers-writethequestionsorconcernsdownas they come to you; you won't remember them at your nextmeeting
· Takestockoftheresourcesyoudohave-includingyoursupportsystem;makealistof resources you may stillneed
· Do you need an attorney? A good attorney can help in almost any circumstance,and most don’t charge for an initial consultation
Another emotion that often enters into the picture when someone is unemployed is grief. Grief over the loss of:
·Function/Physical ability – It can be frustrating, scary isolating, difficult - there are no words that can really cover everyone’s experience if you have suffered a debilitating injury
·Job - In our culture, we frequently identify who we are by what we do; when faced with a job loss, it is common to mourn the loss of identity
·Routine – As adults, we structure our entire lives around our work schedule and can experience a deep sense of loss of security
Men often express fear in the form of anger, as they are often not used to discussing emotions. Women may withdraw and become depressed.
The resulting relationship issues are, needless to say, not necessarily beneficial to healing or the return to work process!
Acknowledging and labeling these feelings goes a long way toward being able to discuss and work through them.
It can be a great relief just to have someone say “I hear you.” or “I know exactly what you are saying.” or “You have been through a lot.” Just the validation of what you are feeling from another person can help so much.