Rowcroft’s Healthcare Assistant Kieron George offers some advice
The theme for this year’s Dying Matters Awareness Week focuses on encouraging people to talk about death, dying and grief in the workplace. Here, Rowcroft’s Healthcare Assistant Kieron George explores some ways in which we can support colleagues who are experiencing bereavement.
“When you work alongside a colleague for however many hours or days a week, it is normal to develop a bond and form close connections,” says Kieron. “This can extend to more than just your daily work activities. It can mean that when a colleague is going through a personal bereavement, you may wonder how you can best support them.”
“Some of us may feel awkward and uneasy when it comes to grief and mourning. It’s normal, difficult, and stressful. Everybody goes through it at some point in their lives. Despite this, it can be very challenging to predict how we might react. Society typically shies away from death and grief, filling its space with clichés or straightforward avoidance.”
“When supporting a bereaved colleague, it’s important for us and our team to remember that grief is individual and unique to everyone. Grief is like a rollercoaster, and our colleague could be on a difficult and complex ride. The kindest way to find out what our colleague needs is to ask them and listen with compassion and kindness.
“The most difficult time for a grieving colleague can be returning to their everyday lives, including work. It is not uncommon for people to feel guilty about appearing as though they are ‘moving on’ or feeling pressured to ‘appear normal’. In the first few days our colleague is back to work, we can express our sympathies, but try not to linger on their grief. It is important to remember not to reduce their grief with comments such as “we all go through it” or “they are in a better place”. This can make the bereaved person feel unheard or that their emotions are not valid. Emotions are extensive and all-consuming at times, so clichés have no place in supporting bereaved people.”
Interacting with kindness
“If a colleague expresses their grief and feelings to us, it is important to understand that we are all in a moment of vulnerability and exposure. We should listen to our colleagues’ emotions and experience, so we can validate their emotions. It is helpful to ask what we could do to help support them during their grief and transition back to work. Then strive to help them in the best way we can.
“The grief of our colleagues may be very tricky to sail. This can be because the grief they display on the outside may not always be how they are feeling on the inside. Respecting that, we should face our interaction with our colleague who is bereaved with kindness and sincerity. Their journey of grief will continue for however long they need. We need to be ready to support them along the way.”