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Grief and Loss: When a Colleague Dies

Learn about ways to cope when a colleague dies.

The death of a co-worker has a strong impact on the workplace. The shock and anxiety will bring workplace activity to a halt. Many will find comfort in talking to each other in the workplace but there are those as well who will find it difficult to express their feelings openly.

The realization that the individual who shared the workplace is gone can have different effects on those reflecting on their relationship with the deceased. The sense of loss will be more heightened if the co-worker was a long-term employee and a well-liked person. Some will experience feelings of guilt around not being nicer, more helpful, or supportive to the person.

When a co-worker who was not well liked dies, those who worked with him or her will be conflicted about what to say. Sometimes a respectful response, such as talking about the role the employee played in the workplace, will put everyone at ease.


It is important to have support in the workplace during the grieving process. Managers should allow time for mourning and encourage their groups to process their own feelings. To set up an appointment to talk individually with a counselor at FSAP, employees can either send e-mail or call (858) 534-5523.

The Faculty and Staff Assistance Program can meet with workplace groups soon after the crisis to calm anxiety and give workers a chance to talk about how the experience affected them. Permitting time for those co-workers who want to attend wakes, funerals, and/or memorial services allows them the opportunity to say goodbye to the deceased.

Every loss we experience in our lives confronts us with our own mortality. It helps the healing progression to accept our fears and support one another.

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