Grieving in the Workplace: How To Cope and Offer Support

The death of a coworker is rarely covered in the manual at most places of employment. Everyone is coping with the loss differently because we may have known them well or not at all, depending on how close they were to us. However, there are ways to process the loss, grieve together, and also avoid interfering with work performance.

There is no set way that everyone reacts to loss, and grief has no set timeframe. In addition to death, there are numerous other types of loss that can occur at work, including moving to a new location, getting hurt, retiring, leaving, or being fired. However, if the loss is a death, a number of factors may affect how it is felt. These might include the decedent’s age, whether their death was sudden, how long they worked there, and the connections they made In any case, it’s critical to discuss grieving issues at work because unprocessed grief can increase the risk of anxiety or depression.

Managing Grief in the Workplace

Tips for coping with grief at work

You will undoubtedly experience the death of a loved one or another traumatic life event at some point. Unfortunately, the majority of people are unable to put off returning to work after a loss and must instead continue to perform their regular tasks while grieving. Here are some suggestions to get you through this period:

Communicate with your colleagues

Most employers (especially large ones) don’t necessarily make a company-wide announcement regarding your loss, so unless you let people in your workplace know that you’re dealing with a loss, they probably won’t know.

It may be a good idea to let your coworkers know about your loss before or soon after you return to work, depending on your comfort level, so you won’t have to constantly relive it as people hear about what happened. Whether it’s social media, email, phone calls, or another channel, you can choose the communication method that works best for you.

You can let your coworkers know how you’d like to deal with the loss, whether you prefer to work through your grief on your own or if you’d welcome their help, so that they are less likely to unintentionally say or do something sensitive in the context of your grief.

Be forgiving

The bereaved frequently experience this awkwardness when they return to work because most people are unsure of how to react to a coworker after they have suffered a significant loss. Try to comprehend your coworkers’ predicament as the bereaved; they likely want to make you feel better but are unsure how to do that.

Many people unconsciously distance themselves out of fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. You’ll be less likely to take it personally if you’re aware that this could occur.

Give yourself time

It’s anticipated that going back to work after a loss will be challenging. If it takes you some time to get back to your previous level of productivity, don’t feel inadequate. Inform your immediate coworkers and your manager so they are aware of the situation and don’t harbor any grudges against having to temporarily assume some of your work.

Signs someone is struggling with grief

People frequently rush into action to avoid having to deal with their emotions, organizing services and getting in touch with friends and family. It may be difficult for coworkers to comprehend why a colleague is acting differently if they return to work before they have worked through the initial stages of grief. If a coworker exhibits any of the following signs, you may be able to tell when they are grieving:

Physical symptoms:

Mental symptoms:

Emotional symptoms:

Although by no means comprehensive, this list can help you get a sense of what to look for when you think a coworker is going through a loss.

How to express sympathy to a grieving coworker

It’s difficult to see someone suffer. Occasionally, it can be even harder to know what to say to someone who is grieving. The most crucial message to convey when you’re sympathetic and want to show your compassion for the bereaved is that you care about them and are there to support them.

Here are a few things you can say:

Understandably, a lot of people worry about saying the “wrong thing” to someone who is grieving. Try to be sympathetic and acknowledge their suffering in your words.

You should avoid saying the following things to someone who is grieving:

Coping with the death of a coworker

Everyone grieves differently, so it makes sense to assume that each employee’s process will be different. Losing a loved one is devastating, but how would you react if a coworker passed away? Here are some pointers to assist you in navigating the office after losing a coworker:

Talk about it

A healthy way to deal with this particular type of grief is to be there for your coworkers as they grieve (and vice versa). You can talk, listen, laugh, cry, and share memories of your shared lost coworker. Participating in a group celebration of the deceased’s life can support your grieving process.

Respect relationships

Each coworker’s level of intimacy with the deceased is likely to have varied. This implies that each person will need to process their grief in a unique way. It’s important to recognize that and respect their process.

Remember your colleague together

Discuss with management and your coworkers how you can all work together to honor the life of your coworker and provide support for their family. You and your coworkers may find it helpful to organize a fundraiser, plant trees, or start a support group as a way to cope with the loss and give back to your coworker’s neighborhood or favorite charity. Positive thinking can lessen the pain experienced by those at work.

Display compassion

Don’t assume that a grieving coworker wants to lighten their workload; rather, make accommodations for the flexibility that a grieving coworker may require. A daily schedule could offer them a welcome and necessary distraction to get through this trying time.

Allow yourself to grieve

It’s important to allow yourself to grieve the loss at whatever level you’re feeling, even if you weren’t close to or even knew the deceased coworker well.

Respect the bereaved’s privacy

They might not be prepared to discuss the loss with you or anyone else at this time. Don’t pry. You don’t need to “cure” the grief—you can just listen and offer support. Only when requested, suggest grief counseling or other resources

Remember that sharing your grief with your coworkers is entirely up to you when it comes to your own loss. If returning to work proves challenging, be sure to inform your manager. Additionally, being a little distracted or getting tired more quickly than usual are common reactions to grief, so give yourself the time you need to get back to your regular routine.

Grief can significantly affect an individual in the workplace. While grieving is being processed, the workplace can be a place of comfort with sympathetic support and honest communication.


How do you deal with grief at work?

How to Manage Stress and Grief at Work
  1. Adjust Expectations. …
  2. Determine Your Needs For Support & Privacy. …
  3. Be Honest and Honor Your Feelings. …
  4. Make Time For Yourself & Your Grief at Work. …
  5. Offer Support and Respect Privacy. …
  6. Make Their Return From Bereavement Easier. …
  7. Plan to Check-in About How They’re Coping.

How does grief affect work?

Grief also has a physical toll on the body, causing illnesses that may cause absenteeism. While managers may care about their staff, their primary responsibility is to get the job done, which may conflict with offering sympathy or making an exception for a mourner’s subpar performance.

How long does a job give you to grieve?

Employers typically permit three days of bereavement leave for the loss of an immediate family member. Companies typically permit one day of bereavement leave for non-immediate family or friends, which is typically used to attend the funeral service.

Can grief affect your job?

Everyone is affected by grief differently, and your feelings may change over time. You might feel tired, anxious, sad or angry. Grief can also cause problems with concentration and sleeping. All of these things can affect your work.

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