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General Suggestions

  • If your own loss material comes up while helping someone who is grieving, put it aside for the moment and talk to a friend about it later. And be sure you do talk to someone; it’s very difficult to help anyone when your own unfinished business keeps surfacing.

  • Don’t be afraid of silence—it can be golden for a person in pain. Just stay with them.

  • Let the speaker know it’s OK to express feelings, to cry, to say what is in their hearts.

  • Honor confidentiality. Be very careful not to repeat to others what has been shared with you.

  • Keep your commitments. If you say “Let’s have lunch and talk,” be sure you follow up.

  • Allow enough time to be with the grieving person. Don’t start a conversation when you have another commitment in a few minutes.

  • Use humor. Humor can be a healthy outlet for a grieving employee, allowing him or her to temporarily step outside of grief and decide what needs to be done about the situation. Some research shows that laughing releases brain chemicals that aid in problem solving. However, the use of humor does not necessarily mean that employees who joke about workplace change-loss are “handling things well.” They will still need assistance and support.

    It is important to use your helpful listening skills at all times. Though it may be tempting to respond with your own humorous comments, first listen to the employee, and then acknowledge the humor with a smile and nod. Laughter can be good medicine. It can soften the pain of grief reaction. Avoid jumping into a “trade-you-jokes” routine, which may interfere with the grieving person’s agenda. Sometimes the expression of humor about their upsetting work situation is a prelude to tears or anger.

    Humor can also be a way of expressing anger and resentment. Sarcastic joking and cynical comments may in reality be expressions of deep pain and anger that the employee hopes will be disguised. Use your effective listening skills in this situation.

  • Be alert to signs of trouble: These signs might include extreme changes in behavior, talk of suicide, idle threats of homicide, lack of appetite or insomnia, use of drugs or alcohol, extreme withdrawal, extreme social activity, unusual irritability, many physical complaints. Such employees should be referred to Employee Assistance, Human Resources, the company nurse, clergy, or a mental health professional.



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