Grieving the death of anyone we love or considered a friend is difficult. When a colleague passes away it can be even more difficult to find ways to grieve a co-worker and show your concern about the loss. There are a number of ways that you can grieve for your friend with your work family. Depending on the company or situation some of these ideas may not work but here are just a few ways you can move through your grief while on the job.
Attend the funeral service. This can be difficult for some due to absence policy, however, sometimes we just really need to be there. Try to attend if at all possible.
Send a personal card to the family. This can be a simple condolence card or one with a personal message you add so that the family understands that you, too, are grieving the loss of their loved one.
If you have a picture of your friend, frame it and put it on your desk. When the feelings of sadness well up it can help to make you feel more connected to your lost friend.
Some employers offer services such as EAP (Employee Assistance Program). These programs are available to you if you feel the need for personal support. The grief counseling can be one-on-one and is confidential. You can talk through the death once or a few times. It is a wonderful service to take advantage of during a time of loss.
If the death is a traumatic death and impacts many people at work, form a grief group. Many times Human Resources will bring in a counselor to help you move past not only the loss but the trauma that accompanied the loss. If not, form your own group. It is hard to admit publicly that you need the help, but try to press through those feelings and know that you are not the only person struggling. Groups can help.
Set up a bulletin board in your workplace and ask others to contribute pictures, poems and thoughts in honor of the deceased. A list of resources for those struggling with grief can be a quiet way to help others by being placed at the bottom corner on a small paper.
Collect funds and contribute a statue, tree, or other memorial item for outside of the workplace. I worked at a school where a young child died and all of her friends and the staff donated funds to add a piece of playground equipment in her honor. The children still talk about it and it happened years ago. A plaque on the equipment tells her story of childhood cancer.
Organize a group to join a marathon, a walk, or a bike ride for an organization helping others who have died for reasons related to your friend. Friends and family members of a woman who died from breast cancer hold a “beat cancer” walk every year in her honor. They then donate the funds to the American Cancer Society to support other victims of cancer and their families.
Remember you are not alone. It is normal to grieve a co-worker. Losing a colleague is a legitimate loss and the grief process is different for everyone. Be kind to yourself during your mourning and healing time both at work and at home.