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Innovation in outreach continues to drive Minnesotans for Safe Driving.
by Brent Richter

Sharon Gehrmann- Driscoll and Nancy Johnson have again led the way in victim education and advocacy. For over twenty-five years the pair have collaborated and been the pioneers of Death Notification education for police and other allied responders. Now, with the support of Minnesotans for Safe Driving (MSD), and a grant from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety – Office of Justice Programs, Crime Victim Services, they have created another educational and victim advocacy outreach program in the form of an Employee Workplace Reintegration after Loss. This innovative program is initially being directed at over 1600 Minnesota small businesses and offers them a complimentary introduction presentation as to how they can better manage the effects of loss that their employees may face. Program introduction packets were mailed in mid-October letting business owners and managers know that MSD will provide additional educational resources, including Alan Wolfelt’s book “Healing Grief at Work”, if they permit Sharon and Nancy to make a 30-minute on-site presentation highlighting the core components of the program. I am both proud and excited to partner with MSD as a mental health consultant on this innovative and important program.
It is a tremendous disservice to employees faced with loss that there is little to no formal assistance available when they return to work. Through this educational outreach of MSD, employers can learn ways of helping to ease the stresses of an employee returning to work. Providing a supportive return to the work environment has been shown to help more than the grieving employee, it assists to minimize disruptions to workforce morale, maintain productivity, decrease absenteeism, and lessen somatic complaints and reliance on health care resources due to increased use of sick time. The debilitating emotions and untamable feelings that accompany grief are often misunderstood. Arbitrary time frames and inflexible return to work policies may further exacerbate what can already be an overwhelming grief response process. Communities, cultures, employers, and sometimes even family and friends limit the acknowledging of grief to those events that immediately surround a loss through death. We know that loss can be very complicated and even ambiguous; it isn’t just limited to loss through death. Understanding the nature of grief, what it is, what it is not, and the realization that each person should be afforded the ability to grieve independently in a supportive environment with others is imperative. No two losses are ever the same either for an individual, or for those who share a loss, and it should follow that the grieving process will never be the same either. I know this 30-minute informational presentation by MSD has the potential to provide immense and immeasurable comfort to employees and co-workers.
If your business  or Chamber of Commerce would like to hear this informative presentation at no charge to you, please call Sharon at 952-238-0970.
Brent Richter, MA is a consultant and therapist, who specializes in grief and loss and practices in Maple Grove, Minnesota

Comments from business groups that have heard the presentation

Minnesotans for Safe Driving presented the Returning to Work after Bereavement
program to our Human Resource Peer Group. The information was very insightful and
helpful for these HR Professionals who struggle with how to help their employees during a
time of loss. The resource provided was timely for several members of our group and they put
the materials and information to immediate good use. I highly recommend this program for
any group of people desiring to help others during a very difficult time.
Kymn Anderson
Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism
Engage - Lead - Inspire – Succeed

The training gave me a new perspective beyond, “I know how you feel” when I really don’t. Now when an employee is close to coming back to work I will be far more open minded and ask what they need rather than assuming I know.

Marcy Jack, Security Director, Comcast

I looked around the room and realized I could have done a much better job helping a number of my employees come back to work after recent losses. The training was very insightful of simple strategies that will help.