The death of a co-worker can be devastating, especially if it is unexpected. Emotions can range from denial and shock to disbelief and fear. Although we try to establish healthy boundaries between our work and personal lives, relationships with co-workers can be very strong. For many, work provides a sense of community and family.
Every workplace must deal with complex emotional issues. Yet, grief is truly the most difficult. It's important to know that grief is the normal and natural response to loss. Grief is not a weakness. It's a necessary part of the healing process and of moving on. As co-workers strive to get through such tragic events, below are some things that may be helpful to get through such a difficult time.
- Call an informal meeting. Some co-workers may feel the need to talk about the deceased individual - what they remember, their last conversation, etc. A meeting can give co-workers an opportunity to grieve and talk about their feelings.
- Communicate funeral and memorial arrangements. Make certain that affected employees know about the arrangements for the deceased. Communicate that people will have time to attend the funeral and express condolences.
- Honor the person who died in an appropriate way. Co-workers may wish to collect money for a charitable donation or create a memorial book or bulletin board. A tribute in the employee newsletter can also serve as a memorial. Another suggestion could be planting a tree in the company's courtyard.
- Talk to a grief counselor. A professional grief counselor may be very beneficial since he or she has not been personally affected by the death. Your company HR department should be able to direct you to resources.
It's important to remember that everyone grieves differently. Some co-workers may have been closer to the deceased than others. Everyone will need their own time and space to heal. Be sure not to judge colleagues who may handle the loss differently. Also realize that feelings may resurface. The deceased employee may have always planned the holiday party or participated in walk-a-thons. Be prepared to deal with emotions as activities remind everyone of the co-worker they lost. The effects of losing a co-worker can last for a very long time.
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