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Grief is unavoidable in life, so it makes sense to include it as part of the business culture too. Indeed, approximately 2.5 million individuals die in the U.S, leaving on average 5 grieving people behind every year. These could be customers, employees, partners, suppliers, etc. 

Grief can last for an undetermined period of time, and there is no rule, and for some people, grief can last several months and years. When grief feels like there is no end to it, it is called complicated grief and can affect up to 20% of adult grievers. Whether it is caused by the loss of a spouse, a child, a friend, or even a parent, complicated grief can become overwhelming and affect day-to-day functions. 

As businesses seek to introduce a people-focused culture and improve team and partner retention, supporting people in areas that can affect their careers becomes necessary. Grief, and the mental health repercussions on one’s career, should be a priority area for companies. So what can companies do to support those grieving?

Honor a former employee with respect

When a team coworker dies, it can be a shock for the business. Teams build solid friendship connections, spending long hours together day after day. When one of them suddenly goes, the whole team is affected. You could acknowledge their dedication and work with a custom display in the reception area, showing a photo and encouraging friends to leave notes. It can also be a good idea to create a space for people to leave flowers and mementos of their time with a lost colleague. It can help teams to overcome the shock and grow stronger together. 

Federal service organizations can also fly a specific flag to honor their team member, such as the American flag with the green stripe for enforcement agents who lost their lives while on duty. 

Provide mental health support

As soon as the business learns about a grief situation, it should make a priority to protect the individuals who could be affected. For instance, if an employee takes a day off to attend a relative’s funeral, it’s important that managers and coworkers show understanding. Everyone reacts differently when faced with grief. Some people may prefer to go back to work immediately, while others need time off. Nevertheless, you should not assume that the person is fine if they have chosen to work rather than book time off. It can be helpful to discuss ways in which the business can support them, such as providing paid talk therapy or helping them approach residential treatment programs for complicated grief situations. They may also benefit from connecting with a grief coach.

More often than not, people may not realize how their mental health is going. It’s hard to judge one’s own situation when you’re in the eye of the storm. Therefore, it can make a big difference when the company can help employees understand their situations and find a solution. 

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Use flowers and vouchers as a sign of caring

Condolence flowers are not mandatory. However, if the business learns about a difficult situation affecting employees, partners, suppliers, or even VIP customers, sending funeral flowers can help show support. Even though the flowers may be paid for with the business credit card, it’s essential to take time to send a personal, handwritten note. As a business, the choice of flowers may be limited. Traditional wreaths and sympathy flower arrangements are favored for these situations. A professional florist can help choose the right flowers to send an appropriate message of support. 

The business can also add unique vouchers and services to support the bereaved. For example, a food catering company can join a voucher to the card, offering the family a free meal when they are ready to face the world again and remember together their lost one. Service businesses can stop payments without discontinuing services for a period of time to give the affected family time to recover. People may not react to your kindness at the time, but it can help them cope. 

Reduce unnecessary stress

When someone needs to take time off to attend a funeral service or recover from the loss of a loved one, the last thing they need is business emails. Ensure that your team respects their grief and doesn’t disturb unnecessarily. Important projects can be handled by someone else. Client calls can wait, and deadlines can be pushed. There is no need to increase someone’s stress with work-related issues. 

However, a trusted coworker can reach out to find out if they need anything or how they can help. Focusing on people’s needs over business requirements is a no-brainer. 

Businesses play a crucial role in grief management. Indeed, most individuals maintain strong connections with businesses, as employees or clients. Acknowledging the importance of your audience’s mental health can provide a source of comfort and a path for recovery. Indeed, as people rely on companies to maintain their lifestyle through wages or purchases, it’s only fair for the business to be a partner through major life changes. 

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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