Don’t shy away from the conversation

Don’t avoid the staff member and don’t avoid yourself. If it causes you to have a reaction, you need to notice that and respond.

Start a conversation, maybe by asking how the funeral was. People ask about weddings all the time, this is just another event.

It is important to use the name of the person who has died.

Develop your death literacy

It’s also important to give people the practical know-how of how to respond to death. This could mean getting up to speed with the facts around palliative care, your company’s policies around bereavement leave and understanding the appropriate things to say.

If you’re at a loss at what to say, maybe say: “I don’t know what to say,” or “I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you”. They’re both good fall backs because they demonstrate empathy, not sympathy. Try to be present with the person who is suffering.

Facilitate invisible care

Ask co-workers to spend time with the grieving worker, such as having a cup of coffee together. Little things like this can really help, they don’t need to be apparent to the person that’s grieving.

Provide practical assistance 

Rather than asking, “how are you?” ask, “what do you need?”

Check in with them and ask “can we bring you some lunch?” Often small things that create a sense of wholeness.

Think about how to communicate the circumstances 

Give some consideration to how the message gets out. Generally, a short email is best. Create a plan with the grieving individual that best suits the individual’s’ preference.

Wear your heart on your sleeve

If you’re comfortable doing so a great way to instil a healthy culture around death in your workplace is to share your own experiences.

Recognise that loss comes in all shapes and sizes. Don’t minimise loss based on your opinions.

National Standards

In Australia, bereavement leave is only two days. Maybe consider allowing a little more time if required. Individuals can barely recover from a cold in two days let alone the passing of a loved one.