How to Cope With a Grieving Colleague

Опубликовал Admin
When a colleague is grieving over a recent death, you may feel saddened and unsure of how to interact with that individual. You'll want to show sympathy, but you may be worried about saying or doing the wrong thing. By learning how to interact with and support your colleague, you can help them work through this difficult grieving period.

Interacting with a Grieving Colleague

  1. Assess your own emotions. Before you talk to your colleague, it's a good idea to check in on your own emotions. You want to show support without detracting from your colleague's grief, which can be difficult if you're not in the right state of mind.
    • Make sure you're not smiling or chipper when you talk to your colleague. The last thing you want to do is offer condolences immediately after hearing a funny joke.
    • Don't try to make it about you. Avoid saying anything like "I know how you feel" or "I went through the same thing."
  2. Evaluate your relationship with that colleague. How you interact with your colleague will vary, depending on the nature of your existing relationship. You should console that coworker regardless of your relationship (or lack thereof) as a common courtesy, but if it's someone you know well you'll be expected to offer extra support.
    • If you don't know your coworker very well, keep it professional.
    • If you know that coworker fairly well, you may want to offer a hug or a comforting pat on the back. If you're comfortable doing so (and if you think your coworker would be comfortable with this), then you can, but you don't have to.
  3. Be cautious about what you say. It's very important that you be mindful of what you say to your colleague. Some people who mean well try to console another person and end up insulting them or dismissing their feelings. Be cautious and choose your words carefully to avoid any awkward missteps as you comfort your coworker.
    • Never give prescriptive advice ("You should" or "You ought to"), as this may come across as insulting and condescending.
    • Don't tell your coworker how to feel or whether they should show or share emotions. Let your coworker decide for himself or herself what is appropriate behavior.
    • Do not offer any type of cliche, such as "It's for the best" or "God has a plan." You may mean well, but saying something like this fails to acknowledge the loss your coworker is suffering through.
  4. Offer genuine and heartfelt condolences. Your colleague needs all the support they can get. When you talk to your colleague and offer your condolences, be sincere and stay mindful that they are going through a difficult period.
    • Be brief but sincere in your condolences. Say something like, "I'm so sorry for your loss."
    • You may want to add an offer to assist that coworker. For example, you might say something like, "Please let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
    • You may be able to offer additional support by talking about a shared memory.
    • If your coworker told you stories about the deceased, you can say something like, "I remember the story you told me about that time _____. He (or she) was a good person; I'm so sorry."
  5. Let your coworker know that you're there to listen. Some people feel compelled to talk through the grieving process, while others may be more private and withdrawn. There is no right or wrong way of grieving, but it's important to be aware of what your coworker needs.
    • Don't pry or snoop into your coworker's affairs. You can politely and respectfully offer support by saying something like, "I just want you to know that I'm always here if you need someone to talk to."
    • If your coworker decides to talk to you, be willing to listen and give that individual your undivided attention. If they don't want to talk about their loss, then don't ask questions.

Offering Support In the Workplace

  1. Ask your colleague if you should tell others. If your colleague is in deep distress, they may have a hard time talking to others all day about their loss. If you think your colleague may be dreading having to explain their sadness or prolonged absence all day, you can offer to let others know so that your colleague doesn't have to.
    • Always ask permission before telling anyone. Remember that it's not your business, and your coworker may be selective about who knows that someone has died.
    • If your colleague accepts your offer, inform your colleagues in a tactful and respectful manner. Take individuals aside in the workplace and tell them quietly that your colleague has suffered a loss and could use their support.
  2. Volunteer to help your colleague with anything they need. In addition to saying that you're there to help out in any way you can, it might be a kind gesture to help your colleague out with some tasks at work. If your colleague has been absent from work for a while there may be a lot of piled up assignments, so see if it's okay for you to help manage some of those tasks until your colleague is back on their feet.
    • Recognize that your coworker may simply want space. Everyone grieves in different ways, so it may be best to simply ask your coworker what you can do to help.
  3. See if you can donate leave time to coworkers. Some companies allow employees to donate their leave time to other employees. Depending on where you work, your colleague may have only gotten one to two weeks to mourn, or perhaps no time at all. Much of their time off was probably spent making funeral arrangements, so your colleague may not have even had time to process their loss. If you're able to, donating some of your vacation time or sick days to that colleague would be a big help in case they feel emotionally unready for work.
    • Talk to someone in human resources about whether your company allows workers to donate unused leave time to another worker.
    • If your company allows it and you'd like to donate some of your time, talk to your other coworkers to see if anyone else would be willing to donate some of their time to your grieving colleague.

Being Supportive Outside of Work

  1. Try to attend the burial service. It's often considered a sign of respect and support to attend the service of a colleague's close friend or relative. However, not everyone is comfortable attending a stranger's service. Your colleague may also want some privacy for the burial service, as it may be seen as a time and place reserved for family and close friends.
    • Ask your colleague when the service is, and ask if it would be okay for you to attend.
    • If you go, remember to be professional and supportive. Wear black dress clothes, try to avoid bringing young children, and let your colleague chat with their family and friends before you approach to offer additional condolences.
  2. Donate to the memorial, if one exists. Some families decide to open a memorial fund instead of accepting flowers for the deceased. If your colleague's family has requested donations, try to donate some money to help offset the costs of the service.
    • Ask a few other coworkers to chip in some money. If you send a card with your donations, make sure your colleague knows that the donations came from multiple coworkers and not just you.
  3. Offer specific help outside of work. It's one thing to offer vague, generalized assistance by saying something like, "Let me know if there's anything you need." It's another thing to offer specific, concrete assistance. Your colleague may not be comfortable asking for help, so offering something concrete would probably be greatly appreciated.
    • Be specific in what you offer and when you're available. For example, you might say, "Can I bring a meal for your family on Tuesday?"
    • Let your colleague know that you and your coworkers want to be helpful and supportive during this hardship, both at work and outside of work.
  4. Consider sending notes or cards periodically. It can take months or even years to finish grieving a death, and many people feel alone as they go through this process. Sending intermittent cards to let your coworker know that you're thinking of them can be a great comfort as the grieving process goes on. Many coworkers will have forgotten about the death after a few weeks, but sending a card a month or two after the service is a nice way to show that you remember and are thinking of that person.
    • Make sure the cards you send are appropriate. Don't send anything happy or funny; keep the card's tone somber and supportive.
    • You don't have to write much when you sign the card. You can simply write, "Thinking of you and hoping you and your family are well. I'm here if you need anything."
    • Don't send cards indefinitely, as you don't want to be a constant reminder of your colleague's loss. Cut yourself off from sending cards after two or three months at most.


  • If you come across colleagues complaining about the slack being given to a grieving colleague, remind them that the same will be done for them someday since loss is inevitable for all of us. If this means everyone else has to pitch in a little more, so be it.


  • Sometimes a person's loss can raise emotions in you. You may have feelings that you haven't dealt with properly. If so, try to keep your sadness and hurt feelings at bay. Remember that this is your colleague's time to grieve, so don't make it all about you.
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