How to Cope After the Death of a Co-Worker

Depending on where you work, you can develop a close, healthy relationship with your co-workers. These are the people you spend several hours a day with, after all. So, it’s natural for friendships to form. Unfortunately, that’s also why the death of a co-worker can feel as difficult to handle as that of a close friend or family member. It’s hard enough when it happens, and tragically it’s happened at bit more for many of us over the past year. That’s why we wrote an article on how to cope after the death of a co-worker.

With the COVID-19 pandemic running rampant over the last year, you may know someone from work who has passed away from it. Even without the pandemic, anything from old age, illnesses, or accidents can cause someone’s life to be cut short.

What can you do to cope after the death of a co-worker? How can you go back to work knowing things will be different and knowing that you’ve lost a friend?

Workplace grief is real, so let’s dive a bit deeper into how to cope after the death of a co-worker.

Talk About That Person

If you work for a large company, people in management or different departments might not feel as strongly as you do about that employee’s death. They may not even bring it up or recognize it.

But it’s okay to talk about it at work. Bring it up to your co-workers. Connect with those who are also hurting at work because of the loss. It can be much easier to grieve together after the death of a co-worker. You can share stories about that person, laugh, cry, and choose to remember them through the pain you’re feeling.

Grieve as a Business

More close-knit businesses may be hit harder by the death of an employee. Suggest some charity or volunteer event in the deceased’s name that the company can participate in together.

Anything from hosting a 5k for charity to planting a memorial tree on the business’ property is a great way to grieve as a company collectively and to celebrate that person’s life.

Give Yourself Time

No matter what your relationship was with your co-worker, it’s critical to permit yourself to grieve. Things won’t be the same at work, and accepting that is a good place to start the grieving process.

Everyone will cope and handle the loss differently. If you had a closer relationship with your co-worker than others, take the time you need to work through the loss. Ask your employer for a few days off or a more flexible schedule as you try to get used to the change. Ensure you get the support you need, both at work and in your personal life, to handle your grief effectively.

Be Respectful of Others

Again, everyone may have had a different relationship with your co-worker. Be respectful of that, especially if you’re unsure what that relationship was. While it’s okay to ask people how they’re doing, be careful not to overstep boundaries.

Additionally, you can set boundaries for yourself. If you don’t want to talk about things right away after the death of a co-worker or if you feel like someone at work is trying to dig too deep for information, it’s okay to tell them you’re uncomfortable answering.

If you’re genuinely struggling to cope after the death of a co-worker, you might benefit from death in the workplace counseling. It’s easy to feel like you’re “alone” in your grief if you were only of the only ones close to your co-worker — but you’re not.

Learning how to work through that grief and get back to your job is crucial, and counseling can help you to do just that. Feel free to contact me for more information or visit my Death in the Workplace Counseling page. We will work through your grief together.

Death in Workplace

Death In the Workplace

Death In the Workplace; Counseling for grief of a of co-worker

People go to work expecting things to be business as usual. At the end of the day, they go home to their personal lives, friends, partners and families. The last thing any of us expects is for a co-worker to die in the workplace, either from natural causes, or as a result of a tragic event or industrial/work related incident such as:

rig and refinery

industrial plant

construction site

line of duty (LODD)

fire and disaster

transportation vehicles

murder / suicide

When a death in the workplace happens, workers have to deal with additional concerns in addition to the shock, the death of a co-worker and the loss of safety in the work environment. Workers, Human Resources and Management may be concerned about how and why the incident occurred and what sort of steps are being taken to ensure that another accident will not happen and/or the security is being increased to protect them from future acts of violence. Death in the workplace may result in feelings of anger, guilt, unease, fears for personal safety plus the pervasive need for someone or something to blame.

When a death in the workplace occurs it can send shock waves through the various parts of the organization. Often times, workers do not get a chance to air their thoughts and feelings about what has occurred with their colleagues and managers in any structured process. People respond to loss differently. Some find it very difficult to return to work, whereas others find it helpful to keep busy; their work diverts them away from grieving, sadness and mourning. For other workers, simply getting back to standard routines and avoiding any special activities or remembrances related to the loss or death, may be the best way of putting the event behind them. Moreover, while they want to continue performing at peak levels, it becomes difficult to impossible. Low productivity and absenteeism are unfortunate but common results of unprocessed grief. On the other hand, Human Resources and Managers often do not know what format or mechanism to follow in the aftermath of sudden and unexpected loss in the office.

My services facilitate the beginning of a healthy grief process. Workers feel accounted for and part of a larger effort of empathetic responsiveness on the part of the company when their needs are addressed. As a crucial part of this larger empathetic (and practical) response, the grief counselor becomes your ally and guide through a complicated passage. (*please read the statement below)

Call Now (346)-493-6181

*The above service is for individuals and delivered at our central office. If an incident has occurred at your company and you are calling about onsite services for the employees – please go to the Critical Incident Stress page (under Corporate Services) for further assistance.

Ben Carrettin is a Nationally Board Certified Counselor (NCC), Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor (LPC-S) and Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor (LCDC). He is the owner of Practice Improvement Resources, LLC; a private business which offers an array of specialized counseling, evidenced-based clinical consultation, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and targeted ESI-based services to individuals and businesses.


Death In the Workplace