I intended for this post to be a lighter subject but life is unpredictable. My grandmother died this summer during a rare freelancing job, so I'm writing how to work in the midst of tragedy.
First thing. Stop.
If your parent is in the hospital, your child is charged with a felony, a diagnosis is confirmed for the worse, when something truly bad happens, stop working, step away from the desk. No matter your situation, take a moment to think what would be the best course of action. Then you can decide to take time off or if you truly want to work keep working.
Contact your employer ASAP
Do not hesitate to tell your work something is up, even if you don't think you need time off. When Grandma Mozie died I emailed the publishing company. They offered to extend the deadline and if I chose reassign my tasks. I was fortunate to have a series of small figures, instead of one complex work. Turning in the previously completed figures, I agreed to take on three more. After finishing those, I asked for four more specifying which ones so my employer could assign the others to a different artist. In the end, I completed 90% of the figures and another artist pick up the others before the deadline.
While it's important to let your employer know you will be gone for a week or need a break from work... it is not necessary to tell them very personal information. For example: you are diagnosed with an STI or someone you are close to took their own life. You do not have to share this. I'm not advocating lying or being mysterious, just paraphrase, you are sick or a family member needs help.
Good advice anytime, call on your support network. Even if it isn't a tragedy. A friend of mine and father of a new born baby once contacted me to finish a project. The employer got the work finished on time, my friend relaxed (as much as you can with newborn) and I got payed. Everyone wins. Your friends and family are the ones that will bring you a burrito when you don't have time to eat, forgive a week of dirty dishes and listen to your cathartic rants. So reach out to them and thank them when they come through for you. And remember that they all have their talents; a burrito buying friend might not be the same as will listen with empathy sort. Also, you might want to hired a professional listener, ie therapist in case talking with your friends is not enough.
Practice Self Compassion
All of the above can fall under this. Additionally, forgive yourself if you forget to call work or if a job falls through. Do not try to keep everything to yourself and force yourself to power through. You will suffer. Your work will suffer.
I'll will end with The Stoic, by Joseph Henry Sharp.
The painting depicts a grieving custom the artist had witnessed in Montana, many years before. An old Crow chief learns that his son has died; he killed the boy’s horses, cut off their heads, gashed his back and fastened rawhide thongs into the raw flesh and dragged them across the mountains for days. I have conflicting thoughts on this. There is the great and unnecessary pain of barring ones grief alone. On the other hand I see a person that throughly knows themselves and bravely faces their grief in order to walk through it.