Personal Assistance Service (PAS) | 2200 West Main Street | Erwin Square Tower | 4th Floor, Suite 400A | Durham, NC 27705 | 919-416-1PAS (919-416-1727)

Grief in the Workplace

Serious Illness of a Co-Worker

Co-workers of the sick person will need to process how they feel and act when a co-worker is stricken with a terrible disease. They will feel anger and pain regarding the co-workers illness and may begin to process the fact that things will be very different. Sometimes co-workers begin to withdraw and avoid the sick person because they are afraid of what to say. Watching someone become more and more ill can lower our ability to cope with the normal situations of our own life.

Knowing that someone is very ill and perhaps dying makes us feel vulnerable and fragile. It may remind us of other loved ones who have died and restimulate grief. Or it may remind us of our own mortality. The sick person reminds us every day of the unpleasantness and fears we associate with dying. We may pull away from the person who is ill because of our fears, trying to protect ourselves from the pain of facing these difficulties.

Caring about someone in the workplace in this situation is difficult. But to pretend that everything is normal is very stressful for everyone as well. If the sick person does not feel that they can have such a conversation, find out what resources are available in your organization to help with such situations or encourage them to talk to a close friend or relative.

What can you do to help someone with a serious illness?

  • Offer to listen if they need to talk or rant or cry.
  • Don't give them false hope, but recognize the hard times they are handling.
  • Ask how their family members are coping.
  • Pick up their medicine.
  • Take them to the doctor.
  • Be kind. Care. Give them a hug.
  • Make a freezer dinner for a night they might not feel like cooking.
  • Ask how they feel, but be prepared sometimes for a short or terse reply.
  • Be ready to listen further, but don't push if they don't think they can talk more now.
  • Let them cry. It is okay for you to cry, too.

Death of a Co-Worker >>