How To Talk About Grief And Loss With Your Boss And Coworkers

It’s important to have a workplace where people feel safe talking about grief and loss. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. 

Here are some tips on how to talk about your personal life with your coworkers and how they can support you when you need it most.

How do we Speak to our Colleagues About Personal Loss
Talking about grief and loss at work can be challenging, but it’s important to be understanding and compassionate.
Building a support system after experiencing grief and loss is crucial for healing and finding strength.
Grief and loss can affect work in various ways, such as decreased productivity and difficulty concentrating.
Employers can support grieving employees by offering flexible work arrangements and access to counselling services.
Colleagues can support a grieving coworker by offering their condolences and being patient and understanding.

Let People Know What You Need

You may also need to change your workload. It’s time consuming and difficult to continue doing things the same way when you’re going through something so profound. Let your boss know that you can’t work as much, or need to sit with other people while they’re working. 

If there’s a project coming up and it requires extra attention, ask if someone else can take on more of the workload or let them know if there are specific things that still need to be done on the project even though you’re grieving.

In general, ask for what you need in order to function at work as best as possible in this new reality: Do I need extra time off? 

Do I have any assignments that aren’t related directly to my job but would help me feel better (like taking care of errands)? Can we talk about adjusting my schedule? Can we talk about where I might be able

to work from home or leave early tomorrow because I’m having trouble sleeping at night?

“Dealing with loss in the workplace can be challenging, but it’s important to maintain professionalism and productivity. Check out our practical guide for tips on how to navigate grief in the workplace.” – Dealing with Loss in the Workplace: How to Maintain Professionalism and Productivity

Remember That Grieving Is Hard

Grieving is a process. There is no set timeline for how long it takes to grieve, and the process can be different for everyone.

Grieving isn’t depression. Grief and depression are two different things: grief is an emotional response to loss, whereas depression is a mood disorder characterized by feelings of sadness, hopelessness and worthlessness that last for weeks or months at a time.

Points to RememberDescription
Grief is a ProcessGrieving is a process that involves many emotions like shock, disbelief, anger, guilt, sadness, etc.
Be Patient With YourselfBe patient with yourself through this process and don’t rush to overcome the grief, take one day at a time.
Everyone Grieves DifferentlyEveryone grieves differently, so don’t compare yourself with others, and don’t judge the way others grieve.
It’s Okay to Seek HelpIt’s okay to seek help from a professional or a support group if you feel overwhelmed or unable to cope.

Don’t Be Afraid To Take Time Off

When you’re grieving, it can be tempting to try to push through everything. You may feel like you have a million things to do and not enough time in the day to get them done but that’s not true. 

You do have enough time in the day, and if you take a moment to make sure you’re taking care of yourself too, I promise things will get done.

Remember that you deserve this time off if your company offers paid bereavement leave (which many companies do). 

Talk with your boss about how much time off is reasonable for what happened (for example, if someone close to you died recently, several days might be warranted). 

If an employee has been out for an extended period due to illness or other reasons and then returns back into work after dealing with their grief issues or other life circumstances outside of work without any difficulties from doing so then employers should expect no problems from this type of situation either! So don’t be afraid!

“Navigating grief in the workplace can be overwhelming, but our practical guide offers helpful tips for coping with this difficult situation. Check it out to learn more.” – Navigating Grief in the Workplace: A Practical Guide

You Deserve To Be Supported By Friends At Work

If you feel up to it, let your friends know that you are going through a loss and would like them to be supportive. Let them know that it’s okay if they don’t know what to say or how to help. You can ask them questions about what they think would be helpful for themselves, as well.

If you find that you feel uncomfortable with asking for support from co-workers, try breaking the ice by sharing a funny story or something positive about the person who passed away. 

This will help others relax around the topic of death and give them permission to talk about it too: “So funny story – my grandpa used to always say…”

Points to RememberDescription
Friends Can Provide Emotional SupportFriends can provide emotional support that can help you feel better and more comfortable at work.
Ask For Help When NecessaryAsk for help from friends when necessary and let them know how they can best help you cope.
Don’t Hesitate to Take Time OffDon’t hesitate to take time off from work if you need it, your well-being is important too.
Show Appreciation For Their SupportShow appreciation for their support and let them know how much it means to you.

It’s Ok To Need Some Extra Assistance

If you’ve never experienced the death of a close friend or family member, it’s difficult to know what to expect. While some people may try to downplay the severity of their loss, others may be more open about their feelings. It’s normal for everyone involved in this situation to have different needs at different times, and that’s okay!

The first thing you should do is check with your boss or supervisor about how best they would like you to communicate with them about your grief. 

You can always send an email saying something like “I’m so sorry I didn’t get back to you yesterday. My father passed away suddenly on Thursday.” Or maybe there are other times when it would be better for you not take time off from work altogether: 

“I’m feeling really overwhelmed right now with all this paperwork,” or “I really need help with project X because I just don’t have enough time.” If there are specific tasks that need doing immediately but require more emotional support than can be provided by coworkers who aren’t involved in the situation directly (i.e., if someone has died), consider hiring someone from TaskRabbit or another online service specifically designed for small businesses who need help completing menial tasks at reasonable rates​

“Managing grief and loss at work can be a challenge, but there are steps you can take to make it easier. Check out our 15 tips for managing grief and loss at work to learn more.” – 15 Tips for Managing Grief and Loss at Work

Don’t Feel Bad About Needing To Ask Questions

It’s OK and important to ask questions, even if you don’t think that it is. If someone has experienced a loss, there are no stupid or unimportant questions. 

You can ask about how they are doing, and if they need help with anything. If you are worried about what to say in the workplace when talking about grief and loss, this article will give you some tips on what not to do as well as suggestions for what you should do instead.

Don’t Be Afraid To Stick Up For Yourself

You don’t have to accept a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, even if doing so is difficult. 

If your boss asks you to do something and it doesn’t line up with your values or priorities, speak up. Ask questions: what’s the goal? Is there another way we can achieve this result?

If someone at work gives you an assignment that doesn’t align with your role in the company, tell them no thank you! 

You have every right to say no when something doesn’t make sense or isn’t right for you and there are lots of ways our brains can trick us into believing otherwise (e.g., “I’m just being emotional” or “It’s not worth making waves”). 

The more firmly we stand up for ourselves and our needs without apologizing the easier it will become over time!

“Finding support and understanding at work after a loss is important for healing and moving forward. Check out our article to learn more about how to find the support you need.” – Finding Support and Understanding at Work After a Loss

Realize Not Everyone Will Be Comfortable Talking About The Loss With You

You may find that other people aren’t always as comfortable talking about the loss with you. It’s okay if they don’t want to talk about it, or if they can’t listen. 

You shouldn’t take it personally if someone can’t listen, but you also shouldn’t feel bad about needing to ask questions or discuss your feelings with them. 

Remember that everyone is different, and there isn’t just one way of handling grief and loss. If someone is unable to be supportive of you at this time, remember that doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them, it just means they are not able to support you in that moment.

You also have a right to stick up for yourself if someone makes an insensitive comment or asks inappropriate questions (for example: “When are you going back?”). 

Just because someone hasn’t experienced something similar doesn’t mean he/she has no right asking questions about what happened; however, make sure those questions are asked respectfully so as not to imply anything offensive about your situation or how others may perceive it in relation to theirs.

Points to RememberDescription
Not Everyone is ComfortableNot everyone is comfortable talking about loss, and it’s important to respect their boundaries.
Find the Right Person to Talk ToFind the right person to talk to who you feel comfortable discussing the loss with, such as a close friend, family member, or a professional.
Avoid Forcing the ConversationAvoid forcing the conversation on someone who is not ready to discuss or listen.
Seek Professional HelpSeek professional help if you feel like you’re not getting the support you need at work, or if you need guidance on how to approach colleagues.

Know That You’re Allowed To Be Sad Around Your Colleagues.

If a coworker has experienced loss, you may be tempted to avoid them or try to cheer them up.

Don’t do that! You can never know the depth of the sadness or happiness of another person without asking. If someone is grieving, it’s okay for them to cry around you—you don’t have to pretend everything is okay if it isn’t. 

They might not want your help with anything at all; they might just need someone to listen and understand.

“Self-care plays an important role in managing grief at work, and our article offers helpful tips for incorporating self-care into your routine. Check it out to learn more.” – The Role of Self-Care in Managing Grief at Work

Sometimes, It’s Better To Leave Work Out Of It

As much as you might want to talk about the loss and grief with your boss and coworkers, sometimes it’s better to leave work out of it.

Sometimes, grieving is something that requires a lot of time on its own. You don’t want your workplace to become all-consuming. You also don’t want grief preventing you from doing your job well or being a good employee. 

In order to be successful at work, you need balance and if grief is getting in the way of this, then it can definitely feel like an overwhelming burden that isn’t worth carrying alone (even though some days may be harder than others).


I hope this guide has given you some ideas for how to handle the loss of a loved one during work hours. It’s important that we all feel comfortable talking about death and grief, but it’s also OK to keep some things private.

Further Reading

Here are some additional resources to help you navigate grief and loss in the workplace:

Talking about Bereavement at Work: A Guide for Managers – This guide from Marie Curie offers practical advice for managers on how to support employees who are grieving.

Grief at Work: Navigating the Challenges and Opportunities – This article from Pathways at Work discusses the challenges and opportunities of navigating grief in the workplace.


What is grief and loss?

Grief and loss refer to the emotional pain and sadness that occurs when someone experiences a significant loss, such as the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job.

How can grief and loss affect work?

Grief and loss can affect work in various ways, such as decreased productivity, difficulty concentrating, and increased absenteeism. It’s important for employers and colleagues to be understanding and supportive during this difficult time.

How can employers support employees who are grieving?

Employers can support employees who are grieving by offering flexible work arrangements, providing access to counselling services, and being understanding and compassionate. It’s important for employers to communicate openly and regularly with grieving employees to ensure they feel supported.

How can colleagues support a grieving coworker?

Colleagues can support a grieving coworker by offering their condolences, being understanding and patient, and offering to help with work tasks or daily responsibilities. It’s important to respect the coworker’s privacy and allow them to grieve in their own way.