When it comes to bereavement care, an EAP is not enough

4 min read

Families face a bewildering variety of responsibilities in the immediate aftermath of a loved one. Not only are they grieving for a close family member or friend, they must deal with other cold realities: everything from settling debts and paying taxes to resolving inheritance issues. 

In addition, probate—in which a loved one’s estate is transferred to beneficiaries—often takes months to complete, while seemingly simple tasks like shutting down a loved one’s accounts and clearing out the contents of their home can be much more time-consuming than families expect.

In fact, settling a loved one’s affairs amounts to a part-time job that lasts for more than a year, on average, Empathy's Cost of Dying Report showed. 

Unfortunately, the level of support employees need is much higher than employee assistance programs, or EAPs, are designed to offer. 

Since EAPs were originally designed to help people with family emergencies like mental health or substance abuse, they may seem sufficient to support employees who are navigating the challenges of loss. While it is true that an EAP is a good thing to have in an emergency, loss involves much more than the initial emergency. 

When employees are left to figure out the long-term challenges of loss on their own, the result can be productivity losses, burnout, and turnover—for the employee as well as their coworkers. 

The long-term challenges of loss 

Families are faced with a steep learning curve to meet their responsibilities and effectively deal with their loved one’s possession, guide their estate through probate, pay taxes, and deal with financial, legal, or bureaucratic hiccups along the way.

Instead of flying blind and learning as they go, having the support of a knowledgeable guide can save time, money, and stress. Plus, when surprises come up and setbacks happen, there’s nothing like an expert guide who knows the terrain. 

In the aftermath of loss, families need more holistic support than an EAP can provide. This is especially true for families who are not knowledgeable about their loved one’s assets and debts and their state’s probate laws. 

For instance, 54% of Americans did not have a will in 2021, but most families have no idea how to settle a loved one’s affairs with no will. Though this situation affects a majority of bereaved families, reliable support is hard to come by, beyond retaining the services of a lawyer—an expensive option, in terms of money and time.

Families facing bureaucratic, financial, and legal challenges at one of the most difficult moments in their lives need more holistic support than an EAP can provide.

Another common issue for bereaved families is their vulnerability. Because our society does not talk openly about death, many businesses associated with death and dying operate without intense scrutiny. 

The result can be disjointed, time-consuming processes, even to complete a simple task like canceling a gym membership. At worst, bereaved families can face inflated prices and fees, and less-than-ethical practices.

The risks of relying on EAPs for bereaved employees

With only an EAP to offer support, employees must tackle the bureaucratic and administrative aspects of loss all on their own.

In addition, even for the support EAPs do provide, many are struggling with provider shortages, as well as issues with access and consistency of care quality. In this sense, dealing with an EAP itself can cause additional stress.

Why customized care matters

EAPs function as a one-size-fits-all solution for a number of urgent issues that families may encounter. One of the biggest problems with applying an EAP as a solution for grief and loss support is that the experience, while universal, varies widely from person to person. Simply put, everyone grieves differently, and everyone deals with the aftermath of loss differently. 

However, the results are predictable when people are not supported in a meaningful way. Employees who are overwhelmed and distracted often struggle with focus and productivity, leading to lower morale, burnout, and turnover.

Holistic care throughout the weeks and months after a loss that saves them time, money, and stress, by streamlining their tasks, helping them avoid costly mistakes, and offering checklists, and one-on-one support, on demand.

With this kind of support, employees can find their equilibrium, giving them sufficient time and room to grieve while focusing on their career responsibilities in a way that works for them. By meeting employees and their families where they are, the financial and administrative burden they are carrying gets a lot lighter.