How to Respond to Bereavement or Grief at Work

Human Resources

Sorrowful things happen to your employees and coworkers. These are the people with whom you spend the most time nearly every day of the week. When bad things happen to your coworkers, you can be profoundly affected, too – and you also want to know what to do.

What is appropriate when a coworker loses a parent or a child? How do you express sympathy when a coworker announces a terminal illness or a family member injured seriously in an accident? There is no formula and dealing with tragedy and sorrow is never easy.

But, these ideas should help you know what to do about employee bereavement and grief when, inevitably, tragedy strikes an employee or coworker in your workplace.

Whatever else you decide to do in response to your coworker’s bereavement and grief, a sympathy letter is always appropriate. Here’s my new sympathy letter template with a sample sympathy letter to help you get started:

Write a Sympathy Letter

Start your sympathy letter on your normal stationery with your name and address and date. Or, if you have chosen to hand write a note on a card or piece of stationery, start with the date.

Dear (Employee Name),”

Start your letter with a description of the event and your sympathy. Depending on your relationship with the employee, you need to write a company note, but you might also want to write a second, personal note. The focus here is the company sympathy letter.

Example: “We want to express our sympathy for the recent loss of your mother. Losing a close family member is always sad and we want you to know that we are very sorry for your loss.

Offer to assist the employee during the grief period without obligating company resources or setting a precedent that you will be unable to offer to all employees.

Example: “Please let us know if there is anything that we can do to assist you as you deal with the loss of your mother.

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