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National Funeral Directors Association. We would like to thank them for allowing us to mirror some of the fine Consumer Information available at the NFDA Online website.
Co-Worker DeathIn our culture, death is not often discussed. So when someone we work with dies, we may find ourselves unsure of how we should feel or act. Here are some answers to questions you may have concerning a co-worker's death.
A man I worked with died recently, and now I feel confused, disoriented and depressed. Is this normal?
Yes. You're experiencing grief, and rightly so. Full-time workers usually spend more time with their co-workers than with their friends or even their families. A co-worker can become a significant person in your life. Whenever you lose someone important, you grieve.
How will grief affect me?
Grief is highly individual. How you grieve depends on your relationship with your co-worker, your age, your sex, your religious beliefs, your previous experience with grief and a number of other factors. No one can tell you how you will, or should, experience grief.
Do co-workers ever feel guilty?
You may feel guilty for a number of reasons. You may believe you somehow should have prevented the death. "I should have insisted Joe see a doctor about that cough," you may say to yourself, or "I should have been there to prevent that accident."
I find myself thinking a lot about the man who died. Is this unusual?
It's common to become preoccupied with the one who died. You may think about the person constantly, recreate the circumstances of the death over and over in your mind, have dreams or nightmares about your co-worker-you may even think you see or hear the person. It's important to realize that, as bizarre as they may seem, these reactions are normal.
How can I cope with my grief?
First, you must recognize that grief is necessary, and that it is something you must work through; there is no shortcut.
I've never met my co-worker's family. Should I go to the funeral?
By all means, go. Visitations and funerals serve as an important focus for your grief, which will help you accept the death and begin the process of healing. Funerals also bring together those who cared about the deceased for mutual support. Your co-worker's grieving family will probably appreciate your presence.
What should I say when I greet my co-worker's family?
Just say, "I'm sorry." If you know them well, let them know you're willing to help in any way you can. Don't try to come up with a profound statement about deathgrieving people don't want to hear philosophy.
A member of the department I manage just died. How should I tell the other staff members?
Don't send a memo-tell them in person. It's a good idea to call the deceased's co-workers together in a conference room or rest area and tell them. That way, they can leave immediately if they want to, or sit for a little while and talk. Don't drift into each person's office or cubicle and tell him or heryou won't know how long to stay.
Some of my staffers were close to the deceased, and I'm sure they're going to be very upset. How should I handle this?
Just tell them you're sorry, and that you're available if they feel like talking. If possible, offer them the rest of the day offthey need time to get over the initial shock.
Should the company hold some kind of service?
That's a good idea. The people who worked with the deceased will probably appreciate a forum to express their feelings and to remember their co-worker. In any case, the company should in some way acknowledge the worker's death. Otherwise, the employees will think, "This company doesn't care about us."
How can I help my staff member's family?
First, go to the visitation and funeral and offer your regrets. Then do whatever you can to help them with any financial matters that involve your company, such as insurance policies, workers' compensation forms and employment records.
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