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How to Cope with the Loss of a Coworker

August 5, 2019 – By Aaron Wandtke – These days, we often spend as much time with our coworkers as we do with our families. It’s not surprising, when you consider that we spend most of our waking hours at work. And often, these work relationships can start to feel like extended family. So when a coworker passes, how do we cope with the loss?

Sadly, we had to ask ourselves this very question. We recently lost a beloved coworker to cancer. Someone who was a cherished part of our team for over decade, and one of the main cheerleaders behind our corporate culture and community.

While we’ll never stop missing her, we did find a few ways to honor her memory and support our team through the transition. If your team has suffered such a loss, we hope you can find some comfort in these ideas.

SHARE YOUR FEELINGS:
Grief is a natural process and it takes time to work through. Reminding your team that they can talk about their loss at work or with other coworkers can be helpful. Having an open space to share experiences and feelings can provide mutual support for team members. If your office has an Employee Assistance Program, remind the team that option is available and confidential. Licensed counselors or psychologists can provide one-on-one support, or even come on site to offer advice to the whole team.

MAKE A DONATION IN THEIR HONOR:
The office can join in to make a donation of either time or money in their coworker’s honor. Maybe they can help coordinate a meal train or other measures to support loved ones. If appropriate, maybe the organization can make a donation to support research for their disease or other cause that was important to the deceased.

PLANT A TREE:
One way we decided to honor our coworker’s memory was through planting a tree. We contacted a landscaper, explained what we wanted to do, and they helped us pick the correct spot and type of tree to plant, and we added on a memorial plaque. Not only does this help the environment, but we can see the tree from our office windows and can remember her fondly.

NAME A SPACE OR EVENT/AWARD AFTER THEM:
We decided to rename our annual “Teammate of the Year” Award after our coworker. This simple change will help us honor her memory while sharing in the true spirit of the award.
We hope that you never have to experience the loss of a coworker, but if you do, that these ideas will help your team cope with the loss.

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