How to support colleagues in their time of grief

Although all of us will probably lose someone dear to us at some time during our working life, it may always come as a shock. We know instinctively what to say to friends and family in their time of need, but we often struggle to know how to support a colleague. What can we do to show kindness and respect which would be second nature in our personal lives?


So this is how to support colleagues in their time of grief!

Support when you first hear

  • If you receive the news first, be quietly sympathetic, offer condolences and ask them what they need.
  • If you are in a more senior role, make it clear that the person may take as much time as they need away from the office.
  • Arrange flowers and a condolence card to show you are thinking of them.


When you are the bereaved

  • Be kind to yourself as there is no right or wrong way to behave
  • Inform HR or your boss (when you’re ready) to let them know about the death, details of the funeral and how much time you think you need.
  • When you return to work, consider returning on a Wednesday or Thursday as it will be easier to cope with a shorter week.


When a bereaved colleague returns to work

  • Do not ignore them because you don’t have the right words. This is infinitely worse than saying the wrong thing.
  • Try to avoid questions like “How are You?” which are difficult to answer. Statements such as “We’ve all been thinking of you, let us know if you need anything,”
  • Don’t assume grieving is over within a few weeks. Ask them how they are doing at appropriate regular intervals.


A little kindness and understanding goes a long way

We are so accustomed to separating our professional and personal lives but don’t feel so well equipped when those boundaries become blurred, and a colleague’s loss makes itself felt in the workplace.


Try not to treat them differently but do show kindness and empathy. Respect the need for space but make it clear you are there if they need a shoulder to cry on.