Helping Others to Heal

A friend shared that someone on her team recently lost a loved one.  Her colleague was having a very difficult time dealing with his grief.  My friend was having a difficult time knowing how to support her colleague. 

Seems that we’ve all been there.  It can be uncomfortable and awkward to deal with death.  We often don’t know what to say, let alone know how to help those who are grieving to contend with their pain, or their responsibilities related both to work and to their loved one’s passing.  All the while, seasons of life continue.  In fact, the traditional holiday season can stir up sadness, renewing feelings of loss and delaying our ability to move forward.  And, yet, actively caring for one another uplifts all parties.

For insight, I turned to my dear friends, Mindy Corporon and Lisa Cooper, founders of Workplace Healing which provides corporate leaders, managers and care teams with the empathetic training necessary for employees affected by life disruptions. 

To help me work through this issue, Mindy offered, “life disruptions touch all of us. Our co-workers are uniquely positioned to be part of our healing journeys when they know what to say and when to say it.”  Lisa added, “engaging with workplace colleagues can serve as an important step in an employee’s healing journey.  Together, they can ensure that business can continue after a loss affects a team member.”

They suggested that we each think about phrases to add to our lexicon when it comes to supporting colleagues, family and friends.  Consider these helpful expressions:

  • “I am so sorry for your loss.”
  • “I wish I had the right words.  Just know that I care.”
  • “I don’t know how you feel, but I am here to help in any way that I can.”
  • “My favorite memory of your loved one is…”
  • “I am here for you.”

Just as they suggest using these compassionate phrases, based on the principles espoused by Workplace Healing, I also received this useful advice about expressions to consider removing from our conversations:

  • “How do you feel?”
  • “Take as long as you need.”
  • “When will you be back?”

One other bit of assistance Mindy and Lisa offered is that sometimes no words are necessary.  A hug alone will often suffice for expressions of comfort and support – just as simply being with the person without the need for discussion.  Indeed, your presence and care will be felt and will help your contact to heal with time.

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