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How Can I Help When a Coworker Dies

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Workplaces, like families, are not immune from tragedy. Sooner or later a team of any size will probably have to deal with the death of one of its members. How people in an office or on the factory floor react depends a great deal on how that death occurred—by disease, accident, suicide or crime. A sudden, shocking death can have a greater emotional impact than one that was expected.

Robbie Miller Kaplan, author of the book How to Say It When You Don’t Know What to Say, says co- workers should make sure to “participate in all the mourning rituals” such as memorial services and receptions. “The mourning rituals are a comfort to the bereaved,” she says, “but they are a comfort to those in the workplace, too.”

Miller says co-workers of the deceased might help themselves emotionally by doing something for the family of the deceased – putting together a memory album, delivering meals to the family, delivering the deceased’s belongings from the office so that the family members don’t have to go to the office. If you do drop off belongings, she says, make sure you do so when the family is at home. They will be glad to see you.

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