Sunday, February 26, 2012

When Co-Workers Are Grieving


The Consumerist is a blog that I read regularly. Recently they posted a summary of an article released by UC Berkeley about how to handle co-workers who have dealt with loss. I thought it was a pretty good set of dos and don'ts and the comments were helpful, too. Some people disagreed with the exact advice given but the conversations there are, for the most part, in agreement about two things I've talked about here:

Emotional currency matters: Some people can do things, ask questions and help out in different ways depending on the previous relationship. An acquaintance I hadn't seen or really spoken to in over a year called me every single day I was in the hospital wanting to come over with her baby. The answer was no--and why would you bring a baby to someone who just lost hers?? I'm sure she had good intentions but it felt voyeuristic and invasive. On the other hand, we had friends who did visit every day but they were already friends who I saw or spoke to regularly. A more appropriate thing for the acquaintance might have been to ask about the meal list (and many acquaintances who are now better friends did do that).

Be sensitive: Also known as don't ask rude questions rudely. Occasionally, I know, a rude question to one person is not to another. Personally, I like talking about what happened but I can tell when someone is genuinely concerned about me and is willing to hear that I can't talk about it now and someone who is simply watching the train wreck and wants more gossip.

I don't have what I consider a "real job" as in, I go to an office and work a regular schedule. I'm an itinerant martial arts instructor and I work for Stephan when he needs me to do, well, anything. So most of the people I "work" with are more like friends. Mike, however, has worked at the same place for almost 15 years. His office was incredible while I was in recovery. He got the week I was in the hospital off without it coming out of his sick leave or vacation time and worked from home the following week while I was still in pretty bad shape.

One thing I never would have thought would be special was that several of his coworkers attended Garrett's funeral. One of them is an Orthodox Jew and because the funeral was on a Saturday, he walked. In June. In a suit. Each coworker who attended is someone Mike has a relationship with and we really like so it was such a good feeling to see their faces and hear their words. After the funeral, they (and others) sent us notes, made us meals, and just took care of us in general. It was a relief to know that Mike had support from people who cared about him.

So, Mike's co-workers and caring co-workers everywhere: thank you.

(photo source)

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