The death of a coworker can be harder than people anticipate. Relationships in a workplace are layered with team building, collaboration, and at times tensions. The work dynamic and the nature of your relationship will influence your grief. Someone that you see daily and interact with daily—more than your close friends probably—is now gone. This may contribute to work stress, which may be hard to navigate because you do not know their family, or your employer is expecting things to go on as normal. While you may not be able to control your work environment, there are things you can do to help with your grief.
Here are some things to consider:
Engage coworkers – give people the opportunity to share. Listening to others can be helpful.
Take time outside of work – constraints put on you by the workplace may not give you time to process this death or talk about it as openly as you would like to do so. Find support within work and outside of work. Consider ways for your coworkers to honor the person, such as joining a walk, supporting a charity, having an annual event/gathering, or supporting the family to name a few.
Reach out to the family – family often wants to know their loved one mattered at the place where they spent most of their time. Share your stories and listen to theirs. Many families feel hurt when colleagues and employers don’t reach out.
Encourage conversations at work – not talking about it is not a helpful strategy. Even if someone did not like the person who died, there are still feelings and memories associated with that person. Some workplace cultures are out-of-date when it comes to policies and communication, which can be an added stressor. Identify those who are willing to talk openly, share similar feelings to you, and put value your grief. Chances are they’ll be grateful you initiated a conversation.
Exercise – grief is not just an emotion. It comes with fatigue and other ailments. Exercise is a healthy coping strategy if you’re able to do so.