When a coworker loses someone close to them, it can be difficult to know how to act around them. When do you bring it up? Should you even bring it up? What should you say?
Since this is a tricky and sensitive subject, we are sharing what to do when a coworker is grieving a death.
Don’t Stay Silent
Along with sadness, there may be some awkwardness when your coworker comes back the first day after their loss. However, what is even more awkward is not acknowledging their loss.
Take the time to privately share your condolences with them. Ask them what you can take on to lighten their workload. Another way to show them you care is to have everyone in the office sign a sympathy card expressing how sorry they are for the loss. However, only giving them a card and then avoiding actually saying anything isn’t acceptable. Take the time to stop by their desk and genuinely ask how they are.
Communicate Your Boundaries
Let your coworker know that you are always there for them. It’s up to them whether or not they are comfortable enough to talk about the loss. Don’t be overly intrusive but also make it clear that you care about them and want to help in any way. Just knowing that they have the option to talk to someone when they’re ready is both comforting and relieving.
What You Can Do
There are a few helpful things you can do! Find out what types of meals they like and cook for them. Freezer-friendly foods are a plus since they may be receiving meals from others.
Also, if your work allows it, offer to donate one of your vacation days. Oftentimes, people are not given enough time off of work to grieve and get things in order after a death.
A few months after the loss, check in with them if it seems appropriate. Grieving takes time and their loss won’t simply go away after a few weeks. They can feel the most alone once the funeral is over and everyone else moves on with their lives.
What Employers Should Do
Along with grieving, dealing with a death takes a lot of time, energy, and mental power. If they lost a spouse or parent, they will have to arrange the funeral, go through their belongings, and deal with the finances. It’s unrealistic to expect an employee to return the day after the funeral.
Grief therapist Claire Bidwell Smith recommends that employers allow grieving employees to take two weeks off. When the employee returns, it’s also helpful to ease them back into their usual responsibilities. Oftentimes, grief puts their mind into a fog, which may make it difficult to complete tasks they normally could.
Have your coworkers helped you through a loss? Share some of the most impactful things they did in the comments below.