The death of a coworker is a unique and often painful experience.
The loss of a colleague can be an unexpected and often painful event. We spend large amounts of time with the people we work with and often consider our colleagues to be our close friends. Their death can therefore come as a huge shock.
Alternatively, if a colleague died who you weren't as close to, you may still sorely miss them or be deeply affected by their death. No matter what your relationship to the person who died, the loss of a coworker can come with a lot of surprising and difficult feelings.
After a death, it's common to feel 'nothing at all' at first.
Fear and anxiety
If you had a strained relationship with the colleague, you might feel a sense of guilt atbout the way you interacted when they were alive.
Talk to someone
Talking to friends, family and other people in your workplace can be really helpful, even if it is over Zoom, the phone or even by text. Your HR department may also have a helpline or counselling service in place that can help you work through your feelings. If you find you're struggling to cope after a colleague has died, you can call our National Helpline for support – we’re here for everyone, no matter what your connection to the person.
Find ways to remember them
It can help to think of ways you can remember your colleague, and keep them as part of your life. This might mean making a special album of pictures, or sharing memories on social media. Cruse also has a number of suggestions of ways to remember someone who has died.
Meet with other colleagues who knew them and spend some time sharing memories and celebrating their life. If this can't be done in person, then try having a meeting online.
Plan ahead on anniversaries.
Birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations can be difficult after someone close to us dies. It can help to think in advance about how you are going to manage. Read our tips on coping with anniversaries.
Journaling and writing
Many people find that writing letters to the person who died can be a real comfort. Others find that journaling helps them to organise their thoughts and recount memories in a meaningful way. Find out more about the benefits of journaling through grief.
Give them space to talk
After a death, some people avoid talking about the person who has died in order to prevent upset. For many, talking about the person they've lost can be a real comfort.
Be conscious of religion
Avoid using phrases like "they've gone to a better place" that are associated with certain religious traditions if you don't know what the person believes.
Offer them a chance to share their memories
Sharing memories of the person when they were still alive can be really cathartic. Try asking the bereaved person what their colleague was like when they were still alive.