What to Do When Tragedy Strikes a Coworker

Posted January 8, 2013 by Marcy Twete in On the Ladder

Recently, Women & Co. published an article about a subject that is rarely tackled, and honestly, I hope rarely experienced for women in business – “5 Ways to Help a Grieving Colleague.” While we all hope no one we work with will experience the loss of someone close to them, chances are it’s something you’ll deal with in your career. I personally have experienced this a number of times (and once even got roped into planning a funeral, but that’s another story!)

Women & Co. gives 5 Ways, and we want to share with you the two that most resonated with us at Career Girl Network.

2. Offer to help her at work.

Your colleague needs to focus on her personal life right now, without worrying about loose ends at the office. When my mother passed away almost 10 years ago, my colleagues worked together to cover all of my responsibilities while I stayed with my family during Mom’s illness and death. All these years later, I’m still grateful for how my co-workers and company supported me during that difficult time.

3. Attend the funeral.

If you are close to your coworker, consider attending the funeral in person, or attend in spirit by chipping in with teammates to send a flower arrangement, card, or donation. When our colleague lost his grandmother, several of my colleagues and I sent flowers to the service. Although that seems like a small gesture, the thoughtfulness offers big comfort to a grieving colleague and lets his family know that he’ll have support when he returns to the office.

Especially #3 – all too often, we think sending food or helping out is enough. But going to the actual service can speak volumes to your support. Someone once told me, about grieving, “It doesn’t matter what you said. It matters that you said something.” The same goes for attending a funeral. It doesn’t matter if you’re uncomfortable or upset. It just matters that you showed up.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."