Addressing grief in the workplace does not have to be uncomfortable. You can help by following these guidelines:
- Offer specific assistance - like grocery shopping and helping with tasks.
- Acknowledge the loss and the grief. Don't wait until the 'right thing' to say comes to you. There is no 'right thing'. The wrong thing is to say nothing.
- Avoid comparisons. What you know is how you felt, but we never know another's feelings.
- Expect to hear the story told again and again. Telling the story is part of the healing. Speak up if the time isn't right. "I am sorry I cannot talk with you right now. Let's continue this over coffee this afternoon."
- Speak up if you are uncomfortable. "I know that what you are saying is important. I'd like to help you find a better listener for these memories, because listening is difficult for me right now."
- Respect privacy. You may be hearing personal and privileged information that should not be repeated. Respect closed doors and quiet moments.
- Expect tears, a normal part of healing.
- Watch out for other employees; vivid memories and feelings may surface. Some unspoken grief may become noticeable.
- Support the efforts of others to help the employee. This sad time can be an opportunity to increase staff awareness of mutual support, teamwork, and the values that are part of your work together.
(Source: Grief At Work- American Hospice Foundation – 1995)