How to Cope With the Death of a Colleague

What Happens When a Coworker Dies

Death of a Colleague
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We spend a majority of our time at work and, therefore, many hours with our coworkers. It is no wonder that our relationships with them are very intense. Over time, many become our friends. Sometimes we even count them among our closest. If one passes away, it will, no doubt, hit us very hard.

The death of a colleague with whom you are friends will, of course, leave a personal void in your life. You will grieve that loss.

Can the same be said about coworkers with whom you aren't particularly close? While you may not grieve the loss as deeply or on a personal level, it will affect you professionally, especially if you relied on your colleague to help you do your job.

Why Your Employer Can't Give You Enough Time to Grieve

Regardless of whether your coworker was also a friend or someone you depended on at work, you will want time to work through your grief—the more personal the relationship, the longer it will take. Unfortunately, when it comes to work, life must go on. When a relative dies, most employers will give you a few days off. When a close friend dies, you can usually take a personal day to grieve. However, when a colleague dies, an entire office cannot stop working. A company cannot exist without its employees doing their jobs. Even if they want to, It is unlikely your employer will be able to give you sufficient time to mourn your colleague's death.

Even your boss, who may also be trying to cope emotionally with this loss, must put his or her feelings aside to deal with the effect it will have on his or her business. The departed employee had a specific role in the workplace. He or she had a job that still must still get done. The employer can't eliminate the position merely because the person who filled it is gone.

It falls upon management to replace someone who, on a personal level, may seem irreplaceable. The employees who they leave behind must accept that someone new has taken over the job and possibly the desk of their departed friend. They may even resent their new colleague, even though they understand that it is illogical to do so.

Death of a Coworker: Honoring His or Her Memory

Although your employer can't shut down to allow you and your coworkers to mourn the loss of your colleague, you can find ways to share your grief with each other. Perhaps you can get together at lunch or after work to discuss your feelings about this loss and your memories of your deceased workmate and friend. Another way you can honor your colleague is to organize a memorial service.

There are also more long lasting ways to pay tribute to someone with whom you worked. You can establish an event to raise money for your coworker's favorite charity or an organization that raises awareness about the illness that took his or her life. You can petition your employer to name a room in the workplace after him or her. Your annual company picnic can be held every year in honor of your lost coworker. That way, you can all remember him or her at a time of celebration, not only one of mourning.

 Another way to carry on your colleague's legacy is to set up a scholarship that will benefit students who want to do similar work. A scholarship fund can also be established for his or her bereaved children.