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Grief at Work:  How to Deal with a Grieving Employee

For all the joys in life, like the beauty of springtime – it is finally warm on the East Cast – there are also moments of profound sadness brought on by grief.  Sometimes, these grieving people are our employees, colleagues or bosses. Many of us have experienced the loss of someone we love. Whether you know it’s coming or not, you’re never ready for it.  

Imagine experiencing grief you’re never ready for and then trying to compartmentalize it so you can go to work and have some semblance of normality. That’s no small feat, I don’t care how amazing you are.  

So what do you do when a trusted colleague, devoted employee or helpful leader is grieving at work? What can you do to help that person transition to their new normal just a little bit better? This is the focus of today’s video.  Today you’ll learn three great practices to deal with the uncomfortable topic of grief, making you a better employee and a better person to those in need of support.

As always the juiciest stuff is in the video below, but if you’re too pressed for time to watch the full video (it’s less than 4 minutes), here’s a quick snapshot.


Here are three great tactics on grief at work.

  • Understand that Grief is Not Linear.

You know that old adage “Time heals all wounds”?  I’m not sure they were talking about grief. Have you ever experienced an employee showing grief or mourning about a person they lost years ago?  That’s not unusual, because grief is not liner. Some people don’t react initially to the loss. It can take weeks or months and it can hit at the most inopportune time.  I remember a family friend sharing the story of how he broke down crying in a supermarket when he saw Coke was on sale because it reminded him of his mother who passed years ago.   It was her favorite drink. As a colleague, be respectful that people may express grief several months after the loss. Understanding that upfront can help you be more empathetic and supportive to the journey this employee is on.  


  • They want to Talk About Their Loved One

I’ve had the painful experience of losing a mother and brother within a few years of each other.  After a couple of weeks, after each loss, I noticed that most people at work stopped asking me about the loss, whereas they continued to ask about my Dad and brother who are still living.  A few special people continued to periodically asked, which made all the difference in the world. Sheryl Sandberg speaks to this phenomenon in her book “Option B and Life After Grief”.

Philosophically, we know that the reason most people don’t ask about our grief is because it’s uncomfortable for them.  Here’s another perspective. Not asking about the lost loved one is uncomfortable for the person grieving, because it starts to feel like people have forgotten our loved one ever existed.  


  • Proactively Check In with the Employee

Your objective as the colleague of a grieving employee is to show support and concern.  One of the best ways to do this is to proactively and periodically check in with the grieving employee.  Once a quarter, for the first year since the employee’s loss, whether the employee is bringing up the lost loved one or not, proactively ask your grieving colleague how they are coping.  

You don’t have to have the magic words.  Simply asking will make a huge impact on the employee’s perception of your care and concern for him/her.

Leave a comment on the video and if you like it, please share the video. You never know how you’ll empower someone to change the world with one simple video share.

The corporate world needs that unique gift that only you bring. So go out into the world, act with conviction, be courageous and live joyfully every single day.


XO, Adwoa

Adwoa Dadzie is a Vice President of Human Resources at Comcast and a Millennial Corporate Career Thought Leader.

The views expressed in this post are Adwoa’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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