Helping a Co-worker Who is Grieving
We live in a death denying society.
It is difficult for us to talk about death. In the workplace, however, it is very important to address the issues of the person’s loss. Talking about the aspects of the loss that are important to the griever will lead to a more compassionate and productive workplace.
Ask about the loss.
Take the initiative to talk about what happened. The griever will often keep what happened to themselves because they don’t know who will be comfortable in talking about it. Ask them what happened and just sit back and listen.
In the workplace, we tend to be problem-solvers. Something happens and we work together to fix it. In the instance of loss through death, no one can fix it. If you spend your time giving advice or offering judgments to the griever, you will not be listening. Part of the process of grieving is telling the story. This is how grievers heal and make sense of the loss. If you are talking more than you are listening, you are not being there for them.
The need for time off.
Help to negotiate time off during the first year if they request it. It can be difficult for grievers to initiate having their needs met, especially if they are dependent on the job for their on-going survival. If possible, allow for periods of time off, especially at the anniversary of the death, or the birthday if it is requested.
A griever often will have difficulty with concentration, memory, and attention to details. They may be easily distracted and cry often. Needing to rearrange work load and share responsibilities will usually be temporary. Perhaps you can help with that.
Providing information to your co-worker on available resources: books, support groups, counsellors will be beneficial to them.