The Untimely Death of a Co-worker

When a co-worker dies – at home or on-the-job, accidentally, suddenly or after a long illness – his or her workplace colleagues feel the loss.

The extent of this felt loss can vary significantly from one co-worker to another and depends on many factors.

Obviously, on-the-job fatalities and off-the-job suicides can be expected to have a deep and profound impact.

Fortunately such events are rare. More common is the sudden death of a co-worker as the result of a traffic accident or cardiac event, for example.

And depending on the circumstances and the people involved, the responses of co-workers can vary significantly.

That said, there are responses that are somewhat predictable, among them are

  • A sense of “this is not right”
  • Shock  and emotional numbness
  • Sleep difficulty and change in appetite

These reactions are normal and can actually aid in the healing process.

Whether your relationship with the departed was casual or close, there is also a need to grieve. It may help to:

  • Talk to others about your sense of loss and share memories of the deceased.
    • Have a workplace-only event.A luncheon or office only memorial is a chance for coworkers to acknowledge their unique relationship with the deceased.
    • Remember the positive contributions the departed made to your life and lives of others.  And try to make similar contributions.

If you have experienced the death of a co-worker and would like to share how you helped yourself or others to respond and recover, please do so by emailing We’ll post your responses in a subsequent blog.

 Thank you.