Grief & the Workplace

Whether it’s a colleague’s illness, the boss’ death or trying to help a friend through the loss of a spouse, grief and loss can dramatically affect the workplace. Being sensitive and deliberate in our responses can help the entire office cope with a difficult time.

Supporting a colleague

When someone at work experiences a loss, simply offering your sympathy and support is a good way to help. Asking how they are doing and genuinely listening to their response without judgment or comment is usually appreciated. It is important to acknowledge their loss; often a simple “I’m sorry” is enough. Sharing stories of your own loss or avoiding the topic because you aren’t sure what to say is often hurtful to the bereaved person.

Participating in the memorial by attending visitations, funerals or sitting Shiva are all good ways to show your support. Flowers and memorials from the office can demonstrate your concern and care. Remember, there is no timeline to grief. A colleague may have an unexpected bad day months after a loss, so continue to be supportive even after the funeral.

When a coworker dies

The loss of a coworker is troubling. Providing a sensitive and compassionate environment will help the workplace cope with the loss. Remember that everyone grieves in their own way; providing a space for open communication and dialogue will allow everyone’s grieving style to be respected. Information about the death as well as the plans and arrangements should be shared in accordance with the family’s wishes. It may be appropriate to arrange something at the workplace to commemorate the loss as well, to allow colleagues to express their grief in their own way.

Getting help for the office

It is important for the office to be a supportive place for employees dealing with grief and loss. When a death occurs, it may be helpful to consider professional intervention by a crisis team. Your local hospice, funeral home, mental health agency or Employee Assistance Program are all good resources for providing extra help if needed.

‚ÄčRead Grief at Work: A Guide for Employees and Managers