Managing Grief in the Workplace

Dealing with a tragic loss of a loved one, or another sorrowing life event, is something we all must unfortunately deal with. To couple this with trying to manage our everyday activities, including returning to the workplace, can be very difficult. Being able to separate your feelings about this event in your life and maintain focus while on the job is something that although challenging, can be a useful tool in coping. The workplace can offer comfort, structure, as well as a solid support network of coworkers and advisors that will be there in your time of need.


Grief management ultimately boils down to the individual. We all deal with adversity differently, and we all require different things in doing so. Some people like to talk about it, get it out in the open while venting their emotions to those close to them. Others like to take a “business as usual” approach, using the workplace as a return to normalcy. Developing a functional and understanding relationship with coworkers can really improve the quality of grief management, the more you know someone who is dealing with a tragic life event, the better.

Another key factor in grief management is the type of work environment. Traditional office settings can be a huge benefit to those dealing with adversity, as close relationships are often formed over time, sometimes even resembling a second family. Feeling the closeness of an office support network can make the time spent at the workplace easier and less emotionally taxing, especially if everyone around knows what has happened. Being able to relate and share emotional moments with coworkers is a powerful resource, environment permitting. Unfortunately, in our fast-paced society, sometimes the workplace does not allow for this sense of community to occur, and it must be dealt with accordingly. Time off or even just an extended break here or there, as necessary, can go a long way if someone truly needs it.

Honesty with yourself is of the utmost importance during these trying times. Knowing what you can and cannot handle at any given moment is crucial during the grief management process. Important deadlines and projects ultimately must still be completed, but sometimes they can be too much to handle during this process. Acknowledging and being true to how you are feeling will allow you to take on, or not, the appropriate amount of work and interaction.

Overall, grief management is a tricky and unfortunate part of being in the working world. Life goes on in and outside of the workplace, and trying to buckle down during trying times can be very difficult. An understanding of your particular workplace as well as the relationships with your coworkers are important tools in dealing with these circumstances effectively and appropriately. Taking some time off can also be a necessary outlet for grief management or even some extra breaks throughout the day. The most important part, however, is knowing yourself and how you personally handle these types of delicate situations.

8 thoughts on “Managing Grief in the Workplace”

  1. I always send a card so that usually starts the conversation when I run into the grieving person and knowing what to say will come if I just listen. Sometimes all you need to do is be a sounding board

  2. This is an anonymous quote I find helpful in relation to grieving in general:

    “People who are going through loss do not need space – they need to know you care. They need to know you will help them remember the person they loved long after they are gone.

    If you aren’t sure how to handle a situation, just know that avoiding the grieving because it makes you uncomfortable is the worst thing you can do. It is not about how you feel – it is about how they feel.

    Get in there – life is messy. When it comes time for you to grieve, and we all do, you might just see that others remember your caring and are there for you in return.”


  3. I think it such a help to have people other than family around during trying times. Someone at work can be the perfect person to vent to or release those tears. Also getting back to work, can help ease the mind of the stresses over a loss.

  4. I agree with Amanda. Let the person know you care by giving a card or a kind word. Then take your cue by their reaction whether they want to talk about it or change the subject. Be respectful of how they want to deal with their grief – everyone’s different.

  5. It’s always difficult to find just the right words to say to a someone going thru their difficult, grieving time. I try to carefully select a card with those comforting words you’d like to say, and when you see the person just let them know how sorry you are for their loss and if they need anything you’re there for them.

  6. It’s so hard to know what to say when a coworker comes back to work after a loss. You want to be there for them but not overwhelm them.

  7. It’s comforting to know that other people have as much difficulty as I do when it comes to the grief of a coworker. What to say is never easy. I find that sending a card with an appropriate saying allows you to just say I’m sorry for your loss when the person returns to work.

  8. I have had grief myself while I was working with the loss of my father when I was at AT&T and honestly hearing I’m sorry from everyone, kinda makes you feel worse. Just say I’m here if you need me and mean it or don’t say anything at all. Offer to be an ear or go out for a meal with the person. Sometimes its good to just be someone that cares. Of course sending a card helps, but receiving a card after the smoke blows over maybe a few weeks later is when you need it the most.

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