For many of us, our workmates are like our second family. So it’s crucial that when someone at work suffers a loss, this “second family” is there to help.
After my mother died, I don’t think that I was a very good employee. I felt like I couldn’t show my grief at work, that I should act like my “normal” self. That in itself was exhausting. People in the workplace were sympathetic for a short time and then, like the rest of society, they tended to “move on.” In the meantime, I could barely make it through my daily work responsibilities. How could I not make mistakes in this state of mind?
Employers can make a big difference in how grief is handled in the workplace. It’s actually good business to manage these life events in their workforce. If employers make the workplace more “grief friendly,” employees will be more productive. They’ll also be more likely to feel loyalty toward the company.

Here are four suggestions for employers who want to help employees going through this life event:

* Make contact with the employee as soon as you learn of the death. You can express sympathy and ask what the employee might need.

* Stay in contact with the bereaved employee while he/she is out of the office after the death. Try to be as flexible as feasibly possible when negotiating when is the best time for the employee to return.

* Let the rest of the staff know that the co-worker has suffered a loss. If possible, the company should allow staff to attend the funeral or reach out to their co-worker in some way. It’s often a good idea to have the staff send a group condolence note or gift to the affected employee.

* When the employee returns to the office, recognize that the employee may not be able to immediately be as productive as he/she was before the loss. Fellow employees may be urged to help out the affected employee for awhile. Most employees will be willing because they know that they will get similar treatment when they suffer a loss.

Jane Galbraith, BScN, R.N., is the author of “Baby Boomers Face Grief – Survival and Recovery”. Her work in the community health field included dealing with palliative clients and their bereaved families and has also assisted facilitating grief support groups. She speaks to many organizations and employers  including the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting and the Canadian Palliative Care and Hospice Conference in the fall of 2007. Her book is available through the author directly at or More information about the book can be found at

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Jane Galbraith

Jane Galbraith has lived in Burlington, Ontario for many years. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing and has worked in the community health care field since 1976. Her work has included dealing with palliative clients and their bereaved families for the past two decades and also has assisted facilitating grief support groups. As well she has presented to the Bereavement Ontario Network annual meeting, the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Conference in 2007, conducted a workshop at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in September 2009 and presented to the Ontario Palliative Care Association in 2010 and the Peel Chapter of the HRPAH in 2012. More information about Jane, her book, Grief @Work program and articles can be found at Jane was a guest on the radio show Healing the Grieving Heart and discussed Facing Loss and Recovery with hosts, Dr. Gloria and Dr. Heidi Horsley. To listen to this show, click on the following link:

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