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How To Cope With Death Of A Co-Worker 80

We spend so many hours of our life working and most of us can’t help but to make friends with our co-workers. Some of these relationships are just that, friendships we share at work, others develop into closer friendships where co-workers may spend time together away from work. Either way, close personal bonds are developed.

Employee GrievingYour relationships at work are developed by working together on projects as a team or you maybe are working on an individual project and need some assistance and a co-worker helps you out.

Spending time together daily, five days per week, fifty-two weeks per year, you cannot help but to develop a relationship built on trust and respect. You get used to having that person around, not only because you like having them around but they have now become a part of your daily life. When they are not at work you seek them out wondering if they are okay or not. They’re not being there has an effect on you.

If that co-worker were to become ill and have to be off of work for awhile it would have an impact on you. This person has been there every day and worked with you. You have grown to rely on their help but also you have developed a friendship and you care about them. The lack of their presence may leave you feeling down and somewhat sad.

It is not the norm that we think about people close to us dying on a regular basis.

The thought might run across our mind every now and then, but as a rule, it doesn’t occur frequently. We all know that dying is a part of life, it will happen to all of us eventually. More than likely at some point in your life, you may experience dealing with someone who is terminally ill. This is a very difficult time, you know that they are not going to recover and it is just a matter of time before they leave this earth. The fact that you know this is going to happen, certainly does not make it any less tragic or easier to deal with.

I think the majority of us live our lives as if we will be around forever. Anyone who has lost someone close to them unexpectedly is in shock because we just don’t expect that to happen.

It is important to understand and address the employee’s needs during this time of loss. The affect that the loss will have on each employee will depend upon the closeness of their relationship. Some employees may be much more distraught than others.

The employees need to be able to grieve their loss. There are 5 Stages of Grief. Understanding what the different stages of grief are may make it easier for the employees to deal with their loss.


1. This stage is often experienced as a state of shock. You may feel numb, disoriented, or overwhelmed. Some report a trance-like state or a sense of unreality. Though confusing, these feelings help us to slowly come to terms with the reality of the loss, rather than dealing with all of our emotions up front.


2. Anger can be directed at anyone who you feel has blame in your loss. You might feel anger toward your family and friends, your loved one who has passed, or the doctors who were unable to save them. You may also be angry with yourself or the world. This anger is a manifestation of the pain of your loss; it can be understood as a measure of your love for the person.


3. You may find yourself asking “what if” questions, thinking about what could have been done to save your loved one, and perhaps bargaining with God or the world: “If I could have just one more day with them…”  Bargaining is often accompanied by guilt. This is basically our way of negotiating with the hurt and pain of the loss.


4. Depression and sadness are the most recognizable, commonly-accepted symptoms of grief, yet all too often grieving persons are expected to “snap out of it” and act normal. It’s important to understand that after the loss of a loved one, depression is a perfectly normal emotional response. During this stage, you will likely withdraw from normal activities and feel as if you are in a fog of sadness. You may find it difficult to go on without that person in your life.


5. This is the point where we accept our new reality, one in which our loved one is no longer present. Acceptance does not necessarily mean that you’re “okay” with your situation; it simply means you recognize that the person is indeed gone, that your situation has changed. Acceptance is also when we begin to pick up the pieces and reorganize our lives to fit in with this new reality.

(information on “The 5 Stages of Grief”)

Employee GrievingYou need to understand, each individual responds to the stages of grief differently. This means they may respond to the stages of grief in any sequence. The stages may come in any order. Some may not even experience all five stages, and the stages may even repeat themselves.

You cannot put a time frame in how long it will take someone to overcome their grief.

You need to understand and allow yourself to deal with the grief and the emotions that come with it. Sometimes you can be so overwhelmed with the grief you don’t know how to handle the emotions.

Check out this earlier post on Employee Counseling on New To HR.

There are other things you may feel and experience during the grieving process that cause you physical problems. You may have problems sleeping; experience problems with your appetite; experience having aches, pains, and being tense. Of course, there are psychological changes you can experience as well. It is possible for you to experience feeling confused; you may be more irritable than usual; at times you may be feeling distracted, somewhat disoriented, and forgetful. Experiencing all these things is normal. It is very easy to feel overwhelmed while you are going through the grieving process.

Here are some ways you can help your employees be able to cope with their grief and loss:

· You need to acknowledge the loss, feel free to talk about what happened.
· Be respectful of each other’s way of dealing with loss. Some individuals need to talk about it and others may not. They know what works best for them.
· Grief can be both physically and emotionally draining. Allow yourself to take the time you need for you to refuel. That can mean getting more sleep, spending time with friends and family, get away – take a short vacation, and exercise (do things that make you feel good).
· Have patience and be kind to each other, understand each of us are unique and we all process things differently. Some may need more time than others to deal with their feelings.
· Offer grievance counseling to the employees, if you have an Employee Assistance Program contact them and encourage your employees to use the services.
· Provide information on the funeral/memorial services. Make it easy for the employees to attend. Schedule additional workers to come in and cover their shift if necessary.
· Send flowers from the organization and employees.
· Devote a bulletin board or designate area where people can honor their co-worker. Maybe they will post pictures, write a poem or something to express their thoughts.
· Allow the employees to take up a collection for the family or any other suggestions that are within reason.
· As an employer be as supportive as possible. Conduct “Employee Forums” do something positive like an “Ice Cream Social in Memory Of” and serve their favorite ice cream. This sends out positive thoughts.

(information obtained)

 These are suggestions and I am sure you may have many others. I hope this information will be of assistance to you and may be a resource for you when dealing with your loss. Just remember we all deal with grief and loss in our own way so have patience, be understanding, and there for one another to lean on.

© 2014 New To HR

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Rhonda Knisley has been a Human Resources professional almost thirty years. The majority of her profession has been spent in the health care arena as a Director of Human Resources & Labor Relations. Rhonda also has her own HR blog on: http://hr.toolbox.com/people/thehumanresource/posts

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One thought on “How To Cope With Death Of A Co-Worker

  1. Thank you for all the wonderful times on how to deal with the death of a coworker. What most people fail to realize it, our coworkers are like our mini families. In a lot of cases, we spend more time with them than we do with our own families. A few years ago when I was a teacher, we lost a co worker. It was hard breaking and devastating! We didn’t know this co workers outside, personal life, but we felt as if WE were his family. Spending 7-8 hours a day with a person, year round, makes them extremely close. These tips you provide to help cope are wonderful. Thank you.

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