When a Coworker Dies

When a Coworker Dies

On 22 Aug 2019, in self-improvement

By Karen Vaughn, MEd, LPC, CEAP, SAP

When a coworker dies, it can have a significant impact on the workplace. Sometimes coworkers become close friends and spend time together outside of work. Some keep their relationship at work but develop a close bond from working together.

Either way, you will mourn the death of your coworker. If they were also a friend, your grief may be more intense. If you and your coworker weren't friends outside of work, or even particularly close, you may still experience a void in your life. While you may not grieve the loss quite as personally, it will affect you professionally, particularly if you relied on your coworker to help you do your job.

Time to Grieve

Regardless of whether you were friends with your coworker or they were a valued colleague, you will want time to work through your loss. However, when it comes to work, the show must go on. When a relative dies, most employers will give you a few days off. When a close friend dies, you may decide to take a personal day off. While some organizations may close for a few hours so its employees can attend the funeral, most cannot offer more time off than that. Even your boss, who may also be trying to cope emotionally with this loss, must put their feelings aside to deal with the functioning of the organization.

Ways to Cope on the Job

  • Give each other permission to talk about what has happened and its impact.
  • Be understanding of the different ways people react to the loss and respect those differences.
  • Be patient with one another; find ways to cooperate to share any additional workload.
  • Provide information for everyone on arrangements if the family chooses to make it public.
  • Increase self-care, as grief can be exhausting. Reach out and talk to someone and utilize resources such as BJC EAP.

Ideas for Honoring Your Coworker

  • Hold a special memorial service.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Create a book with pictures or stories and send to the family.
  • Establish a scholarship.
  • Hold a fundraiser to help with funeral expenses, if needed.
  • Name a space or event after the coworker.

The impact of the loss of a coworker will be determined by many factors, including the number of years worked together, the nature of the relationship, the age of the deceased, the suddenness of the death and other workplace challenges at the time.

Because grief can have a cumulative effect, this loss can bring about feelings and memories of other losses in one’s life, or bring about thoughts of our own mortality. Make sure to take care of yourself because you too are a valued coworker!

Seek Help from BJC EAP

If grief impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, contact the professionals at BJC EAP for free and confidential help. We are here to help you gain the balance you need to overcome and succeed.

For More Information

Visit our website:

Call 24/7: 314.747.7490 or toll-free 888.505.6444

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