Learn how to speak more openly and empathetically with a colleague about his or her loss.
- I remember so clearly the drive into the cemetery to bury my father. There were four of us riding together as we drove to the spot where the service and the burial would occur. And as we neared the site, I could hear my mother gasp. She was so deeply touched and flooded with emotion at the significant number of people that were standing there. She was overwhelmed by it. A community there to love and support her in her time of grief. The moment is so seared into my own memory and it taught me something I will never forget. And that's the importance of showing up. There's an awkwardness that comes with death. And as you begin to engage with a person with whom the loss has touched, you may be tempted to say nothing about the loss because you are concerned that you could hurt the other person or bring fresh memories and feelings about the death right to the surface. Except saying nothing ignores the glaring truth that's right in front of both of you. It makes everyone invisible, and it really doesn't even honor the loss or the connection that you have with your colleague or your friend. Loss is more broadly, and death in particular evokes helplessness for most of us. There's nothing we can do to bring back the person who's died and there's little that we can do to take away the pain of the one who's grieving. Yet, what you can do is to show up. To bear witness to the pain. And to be present to hear the story or stories as they are repeated. As the one who is in grieve tries to make sense of the loss, the pain, and an unrecognizable life. It is your presence, your simple and genuine acknowledgment of the loss and the sadness and the pain without any effort to solve the problem would hurry the process along. Or it's your warmth and willingness to listen and your offers to assist in the everyday needs of life, such as cooking meals, or picking up a child from school, that can make all of the difference. Here's what you can do. First, acknowledge the loss and offer your genuine condolences. Second, if you're not sure what else to say indicate that you will hold the person in your thoughts and prayers. And third, offer to be available to listen when the person needs to talk. Fourth, offer to assist with more concrete support that might involve errands or meals. Sheryl Sandberg, author of the book "Option B", after unexpectedly losing her husband at such an early age suggested asking how are you doing today or asking is there something I can do today that might be of help to you because asking how are you doing, that was a much bigger and more complicated question to answer. These more specific questions sensitively convey your awareness of loss and the desire to be of help. Remember, the key is to show up and to listen by recognizing the pain and offering to help through listening or something more.
- Understanding difficult feelings
- Defining grief
- Dealing with loss and change
- Supporting grieving colleagues
- Returning to work