What to do if a Colleague is Grieving

June 18, 2023

When a colleague is grieving, it’s important to offer them support and understanding during their difficult time. Whilst you may not spend time with them outside of work, colleagues spend a lot of time together and therefore need to be aware of when someone is grieving and what role you can play in helping them and showing that you are there for support. Here are some suggestions on what you can do if a colleague is grieving.

Express your condolences

Offer your sincere condolences to your grieving colleague. Let them know that you are there for them and available to provide support in any way they may need.

Be a good listener

Allow your colleague to share their feelings and emotions. Listen attentively without judgement or interruption. Sometimes, people find comfort in talking about their loved ones or sharing their memories.

Show empathy and understanding

Grief affects individuals differently, so be understanding and patient. Recognise that their emotions may fluctuate, and they may have good days and bad days. Avoid making assumptions about how they should be feeling or when they should “move on”.

Offer practical help

Grief can be overwhelming, and your colleague might appreciate practical assistance. Offer to help with their workload, cover their tasks if possible, or assist with any immediate responsibilities. Even small gestures like bringing them a meal or running errands can be helpful.

Respect their space and privacy

While offering support is important, it’s also crucial to respect their need for space and privacy. Some people prefer to grieve privately, so be sensitive to their boundaries. Let them know that you’re available when they’re ready to talk but don’t push them to share if they’re not ready.

Check-in regularly

Grief can be a long process, and people often need the most support immediately after the loss. Continue to check in with your colleague regularly, even after some time has passed. Simple gestures like sending a message or asking how they’re doing can make a significant difference. 

Encourage professional resources

If your workplace offers resources such as counselling services or an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), make sure your colleague is aware of them. These services can provide professional support for coping with grief and loss.

Be mindful of triggers and reminders

Be sensitive to potential triggers that may remind your colleague of their losses. Certain dates, anniversaries, or even routine tasks may be difficult for them. Offer understanding and flexibility during these times and be willing to adjust plans or deadlines if necessary.

Attend the funeral or memorial service

If appropriate and welcomed by your colleague, attending the funeral or memorial service can show your support. It demonstrates that you care and are there to honour their loved ones. Remember that everyone grieves differently, so it’s important to adapt your support based on your colleague’s needs and preferences. Grieving whilst at work can be extremely difficult and can potentially lead to impacting the quality of their work. By being compassionate, understanding, and offering practical help, you can provide valuable support during this challenging time.