Supporting a person who has experienced the death of a loved one is an extremely difficult task. As much as you care about the person, you often do not know what the right thing to do or say is. It must be understood that the person in grief may not know or be able to express what they need; they only are aware of what is not helpful. It is imperative to remember that people whom you care about who are in grief, do not only need your support immediately after the death, but months later once the support system stops asking how the griever is doing. The following suggestions are based on the stories of thousands of people in grief.
In the workplace:
- Remember tears are not taboo.
- Do not be afraid to show your emotions – a hug and “I am so sorry” is what they need right now.
- “At least” sentences are never comforting.
- Remember, be sensitive to the fact that people grieve differently. Some may find great comfort in their work, while others may view it as an extra, sometimes unbearable, burden.
- Offer to share the person’s workload, if you can. Sometimes the smallest gesture lightens the load.
- Suggest that the bereaved employee start back part-time for the first week.
- Discuss the ‘exit plan’ (when something happens in the workplace that may trigger a grief response). Can someone be texted or called in immediately to relieve this griever at this moment? A discussion ahead of time may alleviate the discomfort and allow your coworker to feel more confident in her/his returning to work when an ‘exit plan’ is put in place.
What can coworkers offer?
- Pick one person to be the contact person (this will minimize the number of people coming/going/ calling). Too many people may be overwhelming.
- Provide family a list of what can be provided by coworkers/friends.
- Bring over meals.
- Run errands.
- Walk the dog.
- Assist with other children as needed – pick up/drop off at school.
- Shop for food.
- Gas up the car.