Coping with the Death of a Co-Worker

By: Carolyn Coleman

death of a coworkerI recently experienced the death of a co-worker. It’s been hard to process because you don’t always know how to cope with the death of a co-worker. Our co-workers are very much like extended family; we spend most of our waking hours with them.

There are many reasons why coping with the loss of a co-worker can present unique challenges. Co-workers are not always acknowledged for the significant role they play in our lives, so we may not feel supported in our feelings of grief. People may assume you should get over it quickly. Our family and other friends may not know the co-worker who has died; we may not know the family and friends of our co-worker. If we cannot grieve with our co-workers, we may feel completely alone, yet our employers don’t always encourage us to grieve openly or together. Emotions and work are not things that usually go together. Work has long been considered a place to be productive, not to shed tears, which can be a hard habit to break.

We spend a lot of time with our co-workers. They touch or lives every day. We laugh and complain to one another, experience successes and failures, and go through our good days and bad days together. But yet with the loss of a co-worker we often don’t have permission to grieve as we would a family member or friend.

I don’t feel as though grief should be lost in the workplace – we just need to be more proactive in handling it.

As with any loss, I’ve learned to value family more and to take care of our physical and emotional health.

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