How Do I Deal With A Death In The Office?

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When a co-worker loses a loved one, even the most confident among us sometimes find it a challenge to know the right thing to say. The obvious and most practical thing to do when dealing with a death in the office is to send thoughtful sympathy cards with a personal note included. But who among us has not stared at a card, pen in hand, wondering what would be appropriate? It is admirable to want to comfort someone, but the co-worker relationship has to be considered. It is appropriate to express your feelings to your co-worker by recognizing that the person is suffering. ┬áStatements like “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts are with you and your family at this time” show them that you care.

Sympathy Doves Greeting Card

Don’t avoid a colleague who is grieving simply because you don’t know what to say. Honesty is the best policy in this situation. You can simply say, “I just don’t know what to say, but I am sorry for your loss.” Again, a tasteful sympathy card can come to your rescue if speaking directly to someone about this topic has you stumped. Conversely, offering too much info or advice can overwhelm a co-worker who is coping with a difficult situation. For example, relating about how your grandfather suffered in his final days would not be helpful. In short, an honest, simple response is often the best approach.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa L February 18, 2014 at 8:29 pm

But definitely DO say something. Not acknowleding the loss is almost worse than saying nothing at all. If you stick with: I’m so sorry – please know that I am thinking of you and your family at this time, you can’t go wrong.

Francine S February 19, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Depending on how close you are you can offer to prepare and bring dinner to the family.
We had a young mother in town who lost her husband in a tragic accident. We all took turns bringing dinner. This went on for months. She was in no shape to have to worry about feeding her children. A year or two later she told us how she would never have gotten through those months without our support.

Karen F March 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

I just found out that the father of a woman who works in the same building as I died 2 months ago – I had no idea. I am still planning on sending a sympathy card because we used to talk about his medical condition on our smoke breaks. I feel so bad I only found out now but I still think a card is necessary.

Brenda F. October 3, 2014 at 1:43 pm

What a touchy topic. Glad you were able to offer some pointers on how to handle the situation.

Cathy M. September 14, 2016 at 2:51 pm

A sympathy card definitely takes the guess work out of things when you don’t know what to say.

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