Grieving the Loss of a Co-Worker

Grief, sadness, heartache… all emotions we associate with the loss of someone for whom we care. While there seems to be an acceptance and understanding of losing a family member or spouse, the loss of a co-worker can bring all of those emotions alongside added confusion.

When we lose a co-worker, we want to say the “right thing.” We want to avoid pitfalls and avoid increasing the emotions of our colleagues, or the coworker’s friends and family.

Most likely our response is to want to help ease the suffering. 

So here is some practical advice for how to help other coworkers, friends and family when a coworker dies:

  1.  Listen!  Encourage those who had strong relationships with your coworker to talk about memories. Ask questions of your coworkers, for example: “What’s the thing they said most often?” “What’s your favorite memory of ___?”  “What do you think our office (or you personally) will miss most about him/her?” 
  2. Honor their Legacy.  We can honor the legacy of our coworker by sharing with others what we learned from them, carrying on a tradition they began, or simply using a phrase they lived by in our meetings. Finding respectful ways to remember and carry on the legacy of our colleague and friend can assist us in our grieving process. 
  3. Create something tangible in their memory.  A journal filled with individual anecdotes, creating a scrapbook or album of photos can be a meaningful way to process what our coworker meant to our team. Perhaps this is something to give to their family as a way of letting the coworker’s family know how much they were admired or the contribution they had to the company.

What to say to loved ones of the deceased:

  • “I’m sorry for your loss.”
  • “I’m sorry for the pain you’re feeling”
  • “This is so hard” 
  • “There are so many emotions.” 
  • “I know you(we) miss them so much”. 
  • Share your favorite story about, attribute of, appreciation for their loved one..

What not to say:

  • Any platitude that comes to mind. (They’re better off. Now you can move on. etc…)
  • What grieving people need is to feel understood. 

If you or a loved one is struggling to function on a daily basis, due to grief, please seek professional help. We are here for you.

Written by: Allison Wray