How to cope with the unexpected death of a co-worker

How to cope with the unexpected death of a co-worker

The death of a co-worker can have a more profound effect than you might think. Here are some reasons why.

Time spent together

Most people spend more time with their workmates than they do with their families. That means, that even if you are not close to all of your co-workers, the death of any of them leaves a big gap in your normal daily life. Each person will deal with the death of a co-worker differently. Don't judge how other office members react. Also, don't try and suppress your own grief. Sometimes the loss of someone we don't really know can hit us hard.

The unexpected death of a co-worker

If the death was due to an accident or a sudden health issue, the shock can be huge. Someone who has been a vital member of the team is suddenly gone. It can be difficult dealing with their loss emotionally. Additionally, it can be hard to fill their place in the work schedule. Expect production to drop for at least a few days. As people recover and reorganise, things will slowly get back to normal.

Space to grieve

Ask your supervisor if a disused office can be set aside for people to use when their grief overwhelms them. Have calming teas available and soothing music to help them to regain their composure.

Fill the space

It might be a touching tribute to just leave a single rose on their untouched desk for a few days. However, clearing their desk and maybe even moving it, can remove it as a focus of attention and help the healing process.

Reminds us of our own mortality

The sudden loss of a co-worker reminds us that we too are going to die. If the deceased was close to our own age it can really make us contemplate the possibility of our own demise. Use this positively, by getting that medical checkup you've been putting off. Start exercising more and eat better.  No-one avoids death, but we can take steps to prolong our lives.

Attend the funeral

Ask your boss for time off to attend the funeral. Your colleague's relatives will appreciate this respect from his co-workers. Take time to express to them your appreciation for the deceased. Also, being at the final farewell can help to bring a sense of closure and peace.