Grief in the Workplace

Thomas Aquinas once said, “Grief shared is grief diminished.”

This thought is so appropriate, whether grief results from the death of a colleague’s loved one, or the death of a fellow employee.

Both situations call for compassion and understanding on the part of the workplace’s management, employees and human resources department.

When an employee is suffering because of the death of a loved one, he or she should be helped to return to work and be productive again.

Grieving consumes enormous amounts of energy.

But grief counselors tell us that energy can sometimes be restored with the support of others, organized surroundings and the satisfaction and praise from a job well done – even under the most difficult of circumstances.

To help employees who have suffered the loss of a loved one or a fellow employee, David Opalewski, President of Grief Recovery, Inc., says that companies should organize a crisis response team comprised of employees trained and in place before a tragedy occurs.

Such a team can play many roles.

Team members can act as an information source and assist in small group discussions.

They can help workers who may need additional counseling or identify high-risk workers among the friends of the deceased and assist the family with obtaining benefits that may be available to them.

Colleagues who are unsure of what to do, or how to express his or her sympathy to the bereaved employee, can turn to team members for advice.

Team members should be aware that the real work of grief does not begin until several months after a death, and may continue for an indeterminate length of time.

Companies may also implement a quality grief support program that allows bereaved employees to grieve and work in a healthy environment at the same time.

Many of us consider our workplace colleagues to be our extended family.

This is especially true when they express their care, concern and support for us when we are bereaved.

(Research information for this article derived from Bereavement Publishing and the college course “Death, Dying and Suicide Prevention” instructed by Dave Opalewski, President of Grief Recovery, Inc.)

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