Chapter 3: How others respond to your friend’s death

Your workplace

I got the call at work that one of my closest friends had died suddenly. It was truly isolating. My employer had no capacity to support me, and I was supposed to go into a meeting five minutes after I got the call. It buckled me.

When they died, I felt like my whole world was turned upside down. It hit me so hard. I was glad I could take some time off from work and that my boss was so understanding. A friend of hers died last year and so I felt like she could really understand.

Each workplace is different. It is up to you to decide whether or not to tell your employer or co-workers about your friend’s death.

Very few employers provide bereavement leave (paid or unpaid) when a friend has died. Some offer the opportunity to attend a service, funeral, or celebration of life. You may or may not feel supported by your manager or by your co-workers, some of whom may be your friends too.

You may find the structure of work to be helpful as you grieve, or you may find it hard to do what is expected of you. If the person who has died was also a co-worker, there are likely to be additional stressors while you are grieving.

What may help

  • If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), check out what services are available to you.
  • If difficulties with eating, sleeping, or concentration are affecting your ability to work, consult with your family physician, who may suggest you take a medical leave of absence.
  • Seek out community bereavement supports or a grief counsellor who can help you with your grief and with strategies to manage at work and elsewhere.