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How to Navigate Grief in the Workplace

October 11th, 2023

Work is a universal experience just as grief is a universal experience. Yet while the loss of a loved one can impact almost every aspect of our lives, we rarely address death or loss in the workplace beyond paid time off.

This makes grieving at work exceptionally challenging. The workplace is often a space where productivity and professionalism are highly valued. However, when a coworker is dealing with the pain of loss, the dynamics can become complex. A return to normalcy is considered vital to the healing process, yet those grieving often experience waves of sadness and despair, and may have difficulty staying focused or feeling social. So it’s no wonder that coworkers often struggle with knowing what to say or do after a team member has lost someone close to them. The key is to stop worrying about the “right” thing to do and instead focus on small gestures that simply let someone know you’re thinking of them.

Here are a few personal ways to help a coworker who is grieving:

Be a Listening Ear. Sometimes, the most valuable gift you can give is your time and empathy. Be there to listen when your coworker wants to talk or share their feelings. Offer a shoulder to cry on and a safe space to express their emotions.

Adjust Expectations. A coworker may not feel like themselves right way. Adjust overall expectations when it comes to performance and productivity as they come to terms with their loss. Grief comes in waves, and healing simply takes time.

Respect Their Space. Understand that your coworker may need some time alone or away from work-related pressures. Respect their need for privacy and personal space.

Offer Practical Help. If you feel comfortable, offer to help with tasks like organizing work, covering shifts or assisting with projects to alleviate some of their burdens.

Showing your sympathy through acts of giving is another way to support someone who is grieving in the workplace. Here are a few tangible ways to show a coworker they are in your thoughts:

A Heartfelt Sympathy Card. A thoughtful sympathy card is a simple yet powerful way to convey your condolences. You can choose a card that’s just from you, or you can invite other coworkers to sign a card from the entire team. These handwritten notes of sympathy and support will help provide comfort and show that you genuinely care.

Fresh Flowers or Plants. Brighten up their workspace with a bouquet of fresh flowers or a potted plant. Not only do things that live, grow and bloom symbolize new beginnings, but plants and flowers have a calming effect and can provide a sense of serenity.

Books on Loss and Hope. Books that focus on grief and healing can be immensely helpful. Look for titles that offer guidance and support for those going through the mourning process. This thoughtful gesture shows that you understand their pain and want to help.

Homemade Meals. Grief can make even the simplest tasks seem overwhelming. Offering to cook or provide homemade meals or treats for your coworker and their family can be a practical and caring gesture.

Make a Donation in Their Loved One's Name. If your coworker has a cause or charity that was important to their loved one, consider making a donation in their memory. This not only honors the deceased but also shows your coworker that you respect their values and wishes.

Give a Personalized Keepsake. Create a personalized keepsake to commemorate their loved one's life, which can be especially meaningful and comforting. Your gift will help keep their memory alive for years to come.


Designed to Comfort: 5 Thoughtfully Personalized Gift Suggestions

Engraved Sympathy Stone. A thoughtfully engraved sympathy stone will serve as a lasting tribute in their garden or as a centerpiece of their home or office when artfully displayed on a stand.

Memorial Wind Chime. Every time the wind blows, they’ll know their loved one is playing a gentle melody just for them.

Custom Sympathy Jewelry. They’ll always wear a piece of their loved one hand-to-heart when you give them an engraved sympathy necklace or bracelet.

Keepsake Memorial Box. Fill a personalized memorial box with colorful slips of paper so that your coworker can write down their favorite memories. The box can also be used to safely store treasured keepsakes from their lost loved one, like photos, jewelry and ticket stubs.

Custom Sympathy Lights. When you give an artfully engraved memorial lantern or a personalized sympathy votive candle, you’ll make their nights a little brighter in the most beautiful way.

Grieving at work can be a challenging experience, both for the individual mourning the loss and for coworkers who may not know how to navigate the situation. Thoughtful gestures and gifts can provide solace and support during your coworker's grieving process. The key is to show your empathy, respect their wishes and offer assistance in whatever way you can. Personalized gifts, in particular, can create lasting memories and help your coworker find comfort in the cherished moments they shared with their loved one. Your thoughtful support can make a significant difference during difficult times.