Achieve Solutions | How to Help a Bereaved Co-worker (2024)

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Summary

  • Expect the loss to affect everyone at work.
  • Ask how you can be of help.
  • Create a community of caring at work.

The impact of grief on co-workers

When a fellow employee loses a loved one, everyone is affected. To pretend otherwise does not make good personal or business sense, according to bereavement therapist Robert Zucker, MA.

"A co-worker's loss triggers grieving for others in the workplace. They can even become immobilized. Though they may not be family or even ‘friends’ of the bereaved colleague, co-workers are often strongly impacted," says Zucker, Co-founder and Co-director of the Sturbridge Group, a New England-based consortium that offers bereavement counseling, consultation, and training nationally.

A colleague's grief can affect fellow employees in a variety of ways, Zucker says. They may feel:

  • So much discomfort or fear of saying the wrong thing that they become immobilized
  • Empathy and sadness for their bereaved co-worker, especially if they are close and have a bird's eye view of what their colleague's going through
  • An intense and sometimes disturbing re-triggering of their own losses
  • Adesire to avoid the bereaved co-worker because she represents their worst fears actually happening

The challenge of facing and helping a bereaved co-worker may be especially difficult for men, Zucker points out. "Men frequently have issues about crying—especially in very male work environments. I know one bereaved father who used to go to a stall in the men's room and cry, to try to hide his response to the death of his daughter. There was only one other man in his work place who could help him by listening."

What colleagues can do

Despite feelings of helplessness and sadness, colleagues can be an immense support for bereaved co-workers. Zucker suggests that employees take the time to talk to bereaved co-workers as soon as possible after they return to work.

"Sit down with your co-worker and ask, 'How can I be with you in a way that helps you? How can I support you?' Virtually every bereaved person I have ever worked with is so grateful to colleagues who do not run from their grief," he says.

Here are some other suggestions for helping a bereaved co-worker:

  • If company policy allows, pool unused sick time and donate it to the bereaved employee.
  • Cover for the person—go the added distance for them. Create a community of caring at work.
  • Pool funds for flowers, or some other memorial to the dead loved one.
  • Take part in grief rituals such as funerals or memorial services. A simple card or letter expressing your sympathy is greatly appreciated.

Grieving employees never forget those who are able to reach out to them in the workplace. Companies who encourage a compassionate response to grief create both increased loyalty and productivity, Zucker notes. Conversely, moralecan lowerif workers perceive managers as insensitive or slow to respond to grieving employees.

"People will always face loss," he says, "and they will always bring their feelings with them to work."

By Eleanor Vincent

©2001-2019 Carelon Behavioral Health

Summary

  • Expect the loss to affect everyone at work.
  • Ask how you can be of help.
  • Create a community of caring at work.

The impact of grief on co-workers

When a fellow employee loses a loved one, everyone is affected. To pretend otherwise does not make good personal or business sense, according to bereavement therapist Robert Zucker, MA.

"A co-worker's loss triggers grieving for others in the workplace. They can even become immobilized. Though they may not be family or even ‘friends’ of the bereaved colleague, co-workers are often strongly impacted," says Zucker, Co-founder and Co-director of the Sturbridge Group, a New England-based consortium that offers bereavement counseling, consultation, and training nationally.

A colleague's grief can affect fellow employees in a variety of ways, Zucker says. They may feel:

  • So much discomfort or fear of saying the wrong thing that they become immobilized
  • Empathy and sadness for their bereaved co-worker, especially if they are close and have a bird's eye view of what their colleague's going through
  • An intense and sometimes disturbing re-triggering of their own losses
  • Adesire to avoid the bereaved co-worker because she represents their worst fears actually happening

The challenge of facing and helping a bereaved co-worker may be especially difficult for men, Zucker points out. "Men frequently have issues about crying—especially in very male work environments. I know one bereaved father who used to go to a stall in the men's room and cry, to try to hide his response to the death of his daughter. There was only one other man in his work place who could help him by listening."

What colleagues can do

Despite feelings of helplessness and sadness, colleagues can be an immense support for bereaved co-workers. Zucker suggests that employees take the time to talk to bereaved co-workers as soon as possible after they return to work.

"Sit down with your co-worker and ask, 'How can I be with you in a way that helps you? How can I support you?' Virtually every bereaved person I have ever worked with is so grateful to colleagues who do not run from their grief," he says.

Here are some other suggestions for helping a bereaved co-worker:

  • If company policy allows, pool unused sick time and donate it to the bereaved employee.
  • Cover for the person—go the added distance for them. Create a community of caring at work.
  • Pool funds for flowers, or some other memorial to the dead loved one.
  • Take part in grief rituals such as funerals or memorial services. A simple card or letter expressing your sympathy is greatly appreciated.

Grieving employees never forget those who are able to reach out to them in the workplace. Companies who encourage a compassionate response to grief create both increased loyalty and productivity, Zucker notes. Conversely, moralecan lowerif workers perceive managers as insensitive or slow to respond to grieving employees.

"People will always face loss," he says, "and they will always bring their feelings with them to work."

By Eleanor Vincent

©2001-2019 Carelon Behavioral Health

Summary

  • Expect the loss to affect everyone at work.
  • Ask how you can be of help.
  • Create a community of caring at work.

The impact of grief on co-workers

When a fellow employee loses a loved one, everyone is affected. To pretend otherwise does not make good personal or business sense, according to bereavement therapist Robert Zucker, MA.

"A co-worker's loss triggers grieving for others in the workplace. They can even become immobilized. Though they may not be family or even ‘friends’ of the bereaved colleague, co-workers are often strongly impacted," says Zucker, Co-founder and Co-director of the Sturbridge Group, a New England-based consortium that offers bereavement counseling, consultation, and training nationally.

A colleague's grief can affect fellow employees in a variety of ways, Zucker says. They may feel:

  • So much discomfort or fear of saying the wrong thing that they become immobilized
  • Empathy and sadness for their bereaved co-worker, especially if they are close and have a bird's eye view of what their colleague's going through
  • An intense and sometimes disturbing re-triggering of their own losses
  • Adesire to avoid the bereaved co-worker because she represents their worst fears actually happening

The challenge of facing and helping a bereaved co-worker may be especially difficult for men, Zucker points out. "Men frequently have issues about crying—especially in very male work environments. I know one bereaved father who used to go to a stall in the men's room and cry, to try to hide his response to the death of his daughter. There was only one other man in his work place who could help him by listening."

What colleagues can do

Despite feelings of helplessness and sadness, colleagues can be an immense support for bereaved co-workers. Zucker suggests that employees take the time to talk to bereaved co-workers as soon as possible after they return to work.

"Sit down with your co-worker and ask, 'How can I be with you in a way that helps you? How can I support you?' Virtually every bereaved person I have ever worked with is so grateful to colleagues who do not run from their grief," he says.

Here are some other suggestions for helping a bereaved co-worker:

  • If company policy allows, pool unused sick time and donate it to the bereaved employee.
  • Cover for the person—go the added distance for them. Create a community of caring at work.
  • Pool funds for flowers, or some other memorial to the dead loved one.
  • Take part in grief rituals such as funerals or memorial services. A simple card or letter expressing your sympathy is greatly appreciated.

Grieving employees never forget those who are able to reach out to them in the workplace. Companies who encourage a compassionate response to grief create both increased loyalty and productivity, Zucker notes. Conversely, moralecan lowerif workers perceive managers as insensitive or slow to respond to grieving employees.

"People will always face loss," he says, "and they will always bring their feelings with them to work."

By Eleanor Vincent

©2001-2019 Carelon Behavioral Health

Achieve Solutions | How to Help a Bereaved Co-worker (2024)
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