Many of us have been confronted with the experience of having to face a colleague who has lost a loved one. As they return to the office, you might wonder, “How do I approach this person who has just experienced such heartache?” Valid question. These tips might come in handy to help you do this.
Don’t ignore your colleague
You are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that you chose not to say anything at all, thinking that’s a safe bet. In fact, this person is coming back to their second home. They feel comfortable here. Ignoring them will make them feel alienated, awkward or like they don’t belong. That’s the last thing you want to do.
Don’t change your relationship
If you used to have lunch, invite them out for lunch. If you used to stop by their desk in the morning to say hello, do so. And if you don’t have a relationship with them at all, then don’t feel like you need to start now (unless you genuinely want to).
Say something (or don’t)
There are no magic words to take away the pain. “I’m so sorry” will express your feelings honestly. Avoid saying, “I know how you feel.” It is very difficult to comprehend the depth of the loss of a specific person to someone other than ourselves. “It was God’s will,” “Everything happens for a reason,” and other platitudes minimize the death and are rarely seen as helpful by the bereaved. Don’t try to state something positive about the death, such as “At least he/she didn’t suffer”. These statements are of little consolation to the grieving person.
Be aware of your tone
In later conversations, you do not have to be continually solemn. Some humour, particularly in difficult times, is welcome. However, telling jokes, laughing raucously, and being excessively chipper are grating on the nerves.
Rest assured that your warm face and kind words will help your co-worker. Showing your compassion will help them both personally and in their transition back into work.