Grief and Mourning at Work: How to Get the Support You Need (Part II)

Peggy Green - Thee Grief Specialist
by Peggy Green of Thee Grief Specialist
This is a continuation of the series “Grief and Mourning at Work: How to Get the Support You Need”
Educate others how to help you and how to help yourself.
Start with letting your office know you want to be included in regular e-mail correspondence so you can be kept updated on what is happening at the office.
If the griever does not want to share details about their loss, have a co-worker be the go-to person. They may simply reply to questions by stating, “Jane had a loss in her immediate family and will be out for the next week.”
Prior to your return to work, ask your supervisor to have a grief specialist, grief coach, like myself, come into the office and teach co-workers how to best support someone who is grieving. It will alleviate some of the awkward questions and circumstances. Should they leave pictures up of their children if their co-worker lost their child? While in fact, taking down your pictures can do more harm than good. They will notice the change and quite possibly feel guilty for wanting to display pictures of their deceased child. There will be a time to confront this, and I suggest not to delay it or try to protect the griever.
Co-workers and supervisors are not mind readers and most likely want to help. However, they think they will say and do the wrong things. Instead of stepping in to help, they stay away and avoid you.
Here are a few things to say to a coworker that are helpful in their grief:
a. “I’m glad you are back, and we’re here for you.”
b. “We can’t change what happened, but if there is anything we can do to make your life easier, know that we are all here for you.”
c. “How are you today?” is better than “How are you?” It allows people to answer honestly beyond just responding, “I’m fine.”
d. “I’m in the lobby if you want to talk. I will be here for the next hour whether you come down or not.”
And my favorite:
e. “I would love to hear more about your loved one whenever that might be convenient for you. I want to respect your privacy and support you when you are ready.”
Here are things not to say to a coworker that are not helpful:
a. “You’re going to be fine.”
b. “You’re still young, so you can still have another child, get married again, etc.”
c. “He/She is in a better place.”
d. “Everything happens for a reason.”
e. “Time heals everything.”

Here are things to do for a coworker:
a. Keep them hydrated by filling their water or giving them a pretty water bottle, they enjoy using.
b. Be ready to sit in silence with them. Just “be”.
c. Offer to pick them up or drive them home from work.
d. Help keep their desk area clean.
e. Provide them with healthy snacks.
Download your free copy of 21 Things Not to Say (To Say) & Do for Someone who is Grieving,
It is important that you share with friends that you want to talk about your loved one. If you want hugs, share that with them also. Be sure to include those you are closest to when you need to talk or walk. When they offer to help, accept it graciously.
Financial hardship can result from unexpected funeral expenses, loss of an income earner or inability to work. Companies and co-workers have been known to come together to help a fellow employee while grieving.
Your company may not be in the position to pay for an extended leave of absence however, your fellow employees can. Many corporations permit accrued vacation time or personal time off to be donated to allow for extra time away from work.
A Go-Fund-Me account may be set up for the benefit of a person who is unable to meet financial obligations. This is a simple and easy way for those who otherwise do not know how to help.
Your fellow employees want to help, and you can show them the way. Stay tuned for next week’s Thursday Thoughts, Part III on healing the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual symptoms of grief.