Show up with specific help
Asking “Is there anything I can do?” is often well meaning and said with kindness but it places the burden firmly on the person you are offering to help. Can you offer to be their out of office? Could you walk in with them on their first day back?
Adapt to changing needs
People will have different needs as they navigate their grief. Grief is not just emotional, it can profoundly affect someone mentally and physically. Offer support in whatever way feels right for them. They may be wanting space, not wanting to grieve publicly at work or not wanting to engage in big team conversations.
Let them know you are a safe space
“I just wanted to let you know that if you ever need a chat/rant/walk I’m available for you. I’d love to hear more about your loved one whenever you feel ready to share”
Resist the urge to infer how they are, you truly don’t know unless you ask
Avoid...‘You seem fine to me’ ‘You’re so strong’ ‘You’re doing really well this week’.
Accept and expect a variety of emotions
They may cry because they are sad, be super engaged as they are happy to have a distraction, be more irritable or less patient than normal, be quiet because they are exhausted, be a combination of all of the above.
Finally, it’s not a ‘one and done’
Grief does not have to be ‘resolved’. Bereavement leave doesn’t mean grief has gone when they return. Counselling doesn’t mean that they are ‘fixed’. Continue to reach out and offer ongoing support.