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Topic: Workplace

Posted 18 February 2013, 2:25PM

By: Dr. Brenda Marshall

It's Monday morning and your boss calls everyone together for a meeting. She looks sombre. Erin, your colleague's 18 year old daughter died in a car accident on the weekend. You are stunned. Friday, your colleague showed you new pictures of her daughter and boyfriend. How could this be?

 

Unfortunately, most of us will at some time in our careers be witness to a close colleague dealing with tragedy. We'll be overwhelmed with our own emotions - want to reach out - and yet be terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. Some, will be so rattled by their own fear, they'll say nothing. Others, in an effort to soothe or comfort, will say things that aren't helpful. And others, will step forward and be that person we all hope to encounter when at our lowest.

 

In my conversations with grieving individuals, all can point to a handful of people, often at their work, who made a difference. They weren't professional counsellors or super humans - they were ordinary people, performing simple acts during extraordinary circumstances. Here's a few things we can learn from them:

 

ACKNOWLEDGE. Say something - connect with your colleague somehow to say how sorry you are. If you can, go to the funeral - visitation - demonstrate your care with your presence.

 

ACT - Bring them a coffee. Don't be afraid to drop by their office and ask how they are managing that day. Go for lunch. Walk in with them in the morning. Offer to clear their schedule.

 

LISTEN - Let them talk. You cannot fix this - and there are no perfect words of comfort. But....you can simply listen, and be with them wherever they are, at that moment.

 

STAY - Even when your colleague doesn't return your calls/emails - don't give up. Hard as it might be - don't take their emotional state personally - hang in. They will come back and so appreciate that you stayed with them.

 

"There are no great acts. Only small acts of great kindness." (paraphrased from Mother Theresa - with thanks)

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