Grand Rapids:
616-949-7350
Lowell:
616-897-7101

How to Support a Grieving Coworker

Supporting an employee or co-worker while they grieve can be difficult. This can be difficult because of questions like: “What is an appropriate discussion for the workplace?” And “What can I do to help them?” At Gerst, we understand that grief cannot just be turned off but follows us into every space we enter; that’s why it’s important to have friends and coworkers equipped to support grieving loved ones. We’ll explore strategies for addressing grief in the workplace and offer guidance on supporting a grieving employee.

Understanding the Stages of Grief

Grieving is not linear but has several steps and cycles that don’t follow a particular timeline. The process of mourning can be painful, isolating, and unpredictable. Understanding the five stages of grief can help you know where your coworker may lie in the grieving process. The five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Understand that these stages affect everyone differently. There could be times when your coworker seems completely fine, even happy, and other times, they may have difficulty doing any tasks at work. Recognizing these stages and assessing the situation will help you support them through each stage. This could be by checking in on them, asking them to grab a coffee after work to be a listening ear, or offering to aid with some of their tasks to help with their workload. 

Start the Conversation

Reaching out during this difficult time shows you care for them and reminds them they are not alone. A simple “I’m sorry for your loss,” “I’m thinking about you,” or “I am here if you need anything” can serve as an initial step in starting a conversation. If they don’t open up immediately, it is essential to remember that everyone processes differently, and they may need more time before sharing. Acknowledging their grief and making it known you are there for them is enough to make them feel supported. Continuing to check in on them as days and weeks pass by and gently attempting to engage in a supportive conversation can further demonstrate your continued support.

Don’t Pass Judgment

Everyone displays and processes their journey of grief differently. People also have varying comfort levels when sharing feelings and confiding in others. When supporting your coworkers, it is crucial to respect how each person processes and displays their grief differently; this provides them with the space and support they need. Some people may need to isolate right away, while others could find work therapeutic and not need any days off. Avoid judgment during this time and understand that there is no step-by-step manual on how to cope with death. Respecting personal boundaries is key to fostering a supportive and understanding workplace culture.

As a result of any death, your coworker’s life will be going through a period of reconstruction. Keep in mind that grief is unique. No two people respond to death in the same way. Don’t force a specific timetable for healing. Be gentle, sensitive, and compassionate in all of your efforts

Support at Gerst

Our team at Gerst is committed to offering comfort and options that grieving people deserve. With technological advances, families can personalize services and honor their loved ones authentically. We also strive to provide ongoing support after the funeral through our social media pages, blogs, monthly newsletter, and online resources. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you or someone you know is struggling. Remember, you are not alone in this journey.