Grief In The Workplace

It is a time of grief in the workplace. A very dear colleague passed away, and left a huge gap behind him. His life ended abruptly, far too early, and left his family, his friends and his colleagues in pain, so unexpectedly.

Grief Breaks Boundaries At Work

Some people have many friends at work, while others prefer to keep a separation between work and private life. There’s no right and wrong here; everybody does what suits them best. But when an event like this happens, traditional boundaries at the workplace often do not apply, because grieving for a dear colleague requires a degree of sharing that goes beyond regular relationships in the workplace.

Dealing With Grief Outside The Workplace

Everybody goes through moments of grief in life. It is common to grieve the death of a (normally older) family member, the end of a relationship or the failure to achieve a personal goal. Most people grieve in private, and share their grief with their teams at work only selectively, or only after they have already been able to process the grief. It is common to take time off to process such personal (not work-related) grief. Maybe because one knows that people may not be very productive when grieving. Maybe because people do not want to share moments of weakness. Or maybe because people feel that they need time to be by themselves, or surrounded by those they love; those who can help them process the grief.

Dealing With Loss At Work

But things are different when a colleague passes away so abruptly, and especially when it is a colleague that everyone liked so much and considered to be a role model. At such a time everybody still has their own grieving process, but the grief unites the team. Today I visited the office where the colleague was based, and I took the time to talk to many of the colleagues. These talks gave me a strong feeling that the grief unites us. Our dear colleague’s desk is empty, but he is present everywhere, in everybody’s thoughts, and in every discussion.

Grieving Together Makes Us Stronger

I spent some time today sitting in front of the candle that is burning near the colleague’s photo in the kitchen area, and my mind was flooded with memories. These were very personal moments. And then I went to talk to colleagues.

In such moments of grief, I found myself grateful for those colleagues who were empathetic enough to make me break my own boundaries. I try to offer the same, and give other colleagues the space to express their grief, and to convey the feeling that we’re here for each other. I was happy to hear from a colleague who said how speaking to another colleague helped him deal with the grief. And I also felt better after speaking to others. Such collaborative grief goes further than processing the pain. It also offers us the opportunity to be thankful for having had such a wonderful colleague among us. An opportunity to tell each other nice stories about our encounters with this colleague. And an opportunity for us as a team to become stronger. If we grieve together, we strengthen each other, and we become stronger as a team.


We will miss you immensely.


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