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Grief and Loss: Information for Co-workers

Find information on what you can do and say for a co-worker who is experiencing a loss.

Though you may feel awkward, embarrassed, and as if you don't know what to say, remember that friends and co-workers can be a significant source of support to those who have recently experienced a loss.

The following suggestions may help you respond to your co-worker and show your colleague that you care and want to be supportive.

  • Become involved in the re-entry process. The re-entry process is when a person returns to work after a loss. To help your colleague, you can keep connected. A friendly voice, in person or over the telephone, is always welcomed.
  • Acknowledge your co-worker's grief and offer your support and concern.
  • When your colleague returns to work, you will have natural concerns about his or her ability to work, and whether he or she will want to talk about the loss. Listen. Don't ask detailed questions, just listen.
  • Asking detailed questions about what happened usually comes across as intrusive. If your co-worker wants to talk about the event, do listen. Allow the person to repeat the details many times, as this is an important part of healing. However, if he or she is not yet ready to talk about it, don't push him or her to do so. Everybody grieves in their own way and at their own pace. Allow your co-worker to do so.
  • Be available for conversation on your co-worker's terms. An open-ended question, such as "How are you really doing?" or "How is it for you today?" will invite your colleague to talk as much as she or he feels.
  • Offer help with practical tasks such as preparing a meal or doing an errand.
  • Remember that your grieving friends and co-workers are still people who want relationships to continue as usual. While at times they may wish to talk about their loss, at other times they may not. Sometimes they may wish to lose themselves in their work or may relish just having a good time, and appreciating the replenishment of activities and conversation. Continue to include them in your usual activities.

Next: When a Colleague Dies