Coping with Grief in the Workplace

With the holidays upon us, we have many opportunities to celebrate with loved ones. For many, however, this is a time to remember that a loved one is no longer here to join in the celebration. Grief can feel especially difficult in this season.

Whether a staff member has died or the loved one of a staff member has died, sometimes we struggle with knowing what to say to our coworkers and colleagues. Following are some suggestions for coping with grief in the workplace (adapted from Hospice of Southeastern Connecticut’s Bereavement Program):

Acknowledge the death in the workplace. Let your colleagues know that a death has occurred.

  • Allow for coworkers to talk about the death, to offer comfort, to support one another, and to take some time to discuss how your department wants to respond to the individual/family.
  • Be patient with one another as each person adjusts to this news and, depending on the situation, perhaps new roles in the office.
  • Read up on grief and the grief process. Grief affects us in many, many ways. When we know what is happening to ourselves and our coworkers, we are often able to help manage grief reactions.
  • Identify poor grief/stress management in yourself and others. Make it a priority to discover and practice helpful stress management techniques, i.e., walking, yoga, etc.
  • Use your Employee Assistance Program, if available. Trained clinicians can help you cope with your loss, your grief, and your stress. Contact HR for information.
  • Acknowledge the work load may increase or be arranged. Plan for ways to help employees and one another deal with this temporary situation. Share the burden. Give pep talks and give plenty of positive feedback, encouragement, and thank yous.
  • Talk with your staff about how people are doing, about how they are handling their workloads and their stress.
  • Remember grief doesn’t go away overnight. Months down the road, even though everyone else is back to business as usual, the grieving individual(s) may not be. Remember to continue to give comfort, support, and encouragement.
  • Grief doesn’t always hit right away. Don’t expect someone who seems to be just fine to always be just fine. Sometimes the shock of death can hang on for a while before the individual begins to grieve.
  • Ask for help when you could use some.

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