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.