It was a typical Spring Tuesday, finally warmth was in the air. The birds were chirping and the sun was beaming on my face as I waited patiently in the car for my son to finish his school day. The bell rang out and a sea of children poured from the doors. As my own spawn hopped into the car he handed me a sheet of paper and announced that I was to read it and discuss it with him because there was a teacher who had suddenly died. He was unfazed largely due to the amount of times we talk about death I am sure, but also because he had no contact with the teacher in question. We did in fact discuss the impact this would have on his fellow students and teachers and how he should respect their feelings. My son is new to this school. He nodded in agreement and headed outside to play. In the days to follow there were memorials and ceremonies to honour her, she was loved and had a huge impact on our community.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a beautiful soul who was struggling with some losses in her life. We talked at great length about how important routine was to her, how it kept her in balance. After working at the same place for more than twelve years, she walked in one day and a co-worker had passed away in the night. The details were not important. She described to me how time stood still while people filled her in on the protocol. That the room was losing light and she could barely catch her breath. You see, when it is a co-worker and not family, there will be times you get no warning. She had cancer, she knew her time was soon, but chose not to share.
Experiencing the death of a loved one is never easy, but what happens when the death occurs within your work family? The fact of the matter is, we spend forty plus hours a week with those we work with. We create strong bonds with some of these people. We see each other through births, marriages, divorce, even deaths. We confide in them, we laugh and cry with them. They become our second family. In some instances we spend more time with our colleagues than our own families. It is a huge blow when you simply show up for work one day and someone is gone forever. No time to prepare, no time to say goodbye.
The days and months to follow will be difficult. If you are used to going to them for advice or opinions, whether it is professional or personal, this will take time to adjust to. There will be sad days, but you must remember to share the great and funny memories as well. I have had some who said they don’t know where to place their feelings. They are overwhelmed with grief and sadness, but these people weren’t blood. They are confused how they can be so sad. Don’t let yourself feel guilty or ashamed for ever feeling grief over the death of a person. Regardless of their connection to you, if they have died, you are allowed to grieve. You do not need permission from anyone. If you feel it in your heart, let it happen.
The passing of a co-worker also leaves a professional void to fill and this may take time. That may leave extra pressure on employees to pick up the slack. Once that spot is filled with a new person, it may seem awkward at first. Just try to remember that they are not there trying to replace your friend, they are simply there to do a job and keep the company running.
Always keep in mind that the grieving process isn’t an easy one. If your employer offers grief support, take advantage of it. Lean on each other, talk, and reminisce. Be gentle on yourself and take as much time as you need.
Much Love ❤