Most people spend a lot of time at work, so it's not unusual that many people develop close relationships with their coworkers. While it's never an easy task to express your condolences to someone who's just lost a loved one, it can be hard to know what to say or do when a coworker loses a loved one, depending on the level of your relationship and the environment in which you work. Showing sympathy and concern can help your coworker feel supported during the grief process.
Send a handwritten sympathy card instead of relying on email or other forms of electronic communication. It's much more meaningful if you can convey your condolences in a personalized manner that shows you put some thought and effort into writing your message.
Attend the funeral or visitation service, if it feels appropriate to you -- for example, if you have a close relationship with your coworker or many people from your office plan to go to the funeral.
Approach your coworker during a quiet moment to let her know that you're thinking about her. You might simply say, "I know that this is a difficult time for you. I just wanted to let you know that I am here for you if you need someone to talk to."
Invite your coworker out for lunch, if it seems appropriate. If your coworker is having a difficult time readjusting to the work environment after a period of grief or just seems particularly sad or tearful, inviting him to go out for a cup of coffee or lunch can be a welcome distraction.
Offer to help your colleague with any pressing tasks during the grieving period. For example, if you know that she is having a tough time but needs to get a report finished by a certain deadline, you can offer to pitch in and help. Ask her if she needs any help at home, for example, with child care, grocery shopping or other day-to-day tasks, if it feels appropriate.
Send a funeral arrangement to the funeral home if you are the boss or supervisor of an employee who has suffered a loss. You should also offer your condolences in person, if possible.
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Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.