Researchers at the Grief Recovery Institute, a nonprofit educational foundation, recently started an ambitious program. They wanted to measure in dollars and cents the cost of grief suffered by U.S. businesses each year.

It's a significant factor in U.S. productivity. An estimated 2.4 million American workers grieve over the loss of a loved one each year. The Institute's "Grief Index" measures sources of emotional pain from events ranging from miscarriage to pet loss. They conclude that hidden grief costs U.S. companies more than $75 billion each year. The costs include reduced productivity, increased mistakes, and more accidents.

The head of the Sherman Oaks, Calif., institute says that when your heart is broken, your head doesn't work right. He advocates more grief counseling, longer bereavement leaves, and more education on the topic.

Their study is the first to have addressed bereavement in the workplace. They have used as many quantitative measures as possible and interviewed more than 25,000 grieving people. Almost all who were grieving said their job performance was affected. The cost findings in billions of dollars:

  • Death of a loved one, 37.6
  • Divorce/marital problems, 11
  • Family crisis, 9
  • Death of an acquaintance, 7
  • Money trouble at home, 4.6
  • Loss of a pet, 2.4

There is a way supervisors can help: The Institute suggests "grief breaks," such as taking a walk outside, visiting the break room, or finding someone who can chat for a few minutes. Breaks help the bereaved to be more productive the rest of the day.