Chapter 3: Recognizing and responding to your grief

How others respond

I was really surprised by the support our boss provided. He took time to speak with us and to let us know that Juanita’s death was no small thing and that we would get through it together. He even offered us paid time off and counselling.

Your workplace and co-workers

Depending on where you work and who you work with, you may find your workplace to be a source of comfort, or you may find it to be only a painful reminder of your co-worker’s death, with little support for your grief.

If you work with several people, you may be able to share your grief with some of them but not with others. Remember that grief affects everyone differently. If you have few co-workers or if the person who died was your only co-worker, you may feel very isolated in your grief.

You may be either disappointed or encouraged by your employer’s and co-workers’ responses to the death. If you aren’t getting the support that you need, it’s important to look elsewhere for it.


Your friends and family

When you are grieving the death of a co-worker, you may turn to family and friends who know you for support. Most of the time, these people try to support you as best they can, but if they don’t understand the impact of this death on you, you may not get the understanding or support that you need.


What may help

  • Pay attention to how others in your workplace seem to be responding to your co-worker’s death. There may be people whom you can approach to share thoughts and feelings.
  • Keep in mind that your co-workers may have different needs than you at this time. Be respectful and be aware of opportunities to give and receive support. Sometimes this can be as simple as sharing a memory of the person who died.
  • Make use of any workplace resources available to you, such as an Employee Assistance Program or other grief support services.
  • Reach out for support from family, friends, your family physician, a faith leader, a grief counsellor, or a support group. Use your best judgment about who will be able to listen without passing judgment or giving unwanted advice, and let people know what is and isn’t helpful.