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Topic: Bereavement

Posted 21 March 2011, 9:12PM

"Several employees asked how my vacation was. I had asked my boss to let people know what happened, run interference for me and he had not done that. I later found out that the employees were told not to talk about it, not to ask me questions. To this day, I think my reception or lack there of back to work was very detrimental to my grief." (Bereaved sister of murder victim)


People often ask me for suggestions on what to say and do when someone they know is grieving. Coming face to face with another's extreme pain, is something most of us fear. At work especially, we are trained to be solution oriented - to say the right thing and to move on. There is a fear that somehow, we "might make it worse."


There are comments that sting and can stay with someone, but for the most part I think all of us can be supportive and helpful with very simple gestures. "I am so sorry about your son Jackson." Simple words but they convey that you care. As one grieving father, an executive, said to me, "I finally just told everyone "dont worry about upsetting me. It won't be the first time I cried today."


The real skill is being able to sit with someone else's pain, without defaulting to strategies to make ourselves feel better. Acknowledge without offering any judgement. Listen without trying to solve - as Lesley says. And just sit quietly and let them lead.

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