For an Employer

What Can You Do?

  • Express your sympathy and acknowledge their loss. This will make the bereaved person more at ease.
  • Be there to listen. It may be the mose important thing you can do for a bereaved employee. Expressing their despair and loneliness can provide an important emotional release, and the knowledge that someone cares enough to listen, can be critical.
  • Allow the person to talk about the child, sibling or parent they have lost. Share your own memories, if appropriate. The last think a bereaved parent or sibling wants is to feel that their loved one has been forgotten.
  • Avoid cliches. If you don't know what to say, say so. But please don't say you know how they feel -- you don't. Unless you've lost a child or sibling yourself, you can never fully comprehend their loss. And don't say to a parent, "You'r young, you can have more children." No child can ever replace the one who has been lost.
  • Show gentleness. A smile ... not a loud joke. A quiet drink or lunch ... rather than a raucous party. Being in a large or loud group of people is often difficult, and the griever may feel most alone in the workplace during an office celebration or party.
  • Show you care. A hug, a touch on the arm, or simply a welcome cup of coffee can let the bereaved person know you haven't forgotten what they are going through.
  • Offer extra support at anniversaries of the child's death or birthday, at family celebration times like Christmas and other special days. These will always be difficult times for a bereaved employee, and they will appreciate your understanding.
  • Encourage positive initiatives in memory of the child -- for example, planting a tree, establishing a scholarship, or donating to medical research.
  • Offer your help if you've experienced grief yourself. Your understanding of the process can make an invaluable difference.

What Can You do as a Supervisor or Employer?

  • Encourage the bereaved employee to take extra days off in the first year, if the workplace can accommodate it. Grieving is strenuous and demanding work, can often mean sleepless nights, and the griever may need more rest than normal, just to keep going.
  • Adjust the workload to ensure that work can be a successful activity, with a minimal risk of failure or frustration. This will help to build self-esteem.
  • Understand that although no one "gets over" losing a child, people eventually learn to cope with life again and make some new beginnings. So, although they're hurting, respect that bereaved parents can still be valuable members in the workplace, and encourage their involvement and contribution as before. This may be the only part of their lives that a bereaved person feels is intact. It's vital that they feel they can still function and contribute.
  • Recognize that a major personality change may indicate professional help is needed. Help the bereaved employee locate the appropriate resources and encourage their attendance.

How Bereaved Families of Toronto Can Help

Bereaved Families provides a caring support system designed to help families cope with the painful reality of their loss and return to the mainstream of life. Small group discussions led by trained bereaved facilitators are available for parents, siblings (age 3 through 30) and grandparents. Over a period of three months, small groups of approximately eight meet each week for two-hour sessions. More informal meetings with Bereaved Families are available through family nights, newsletters and individual contact.Professionals with expertise in the nature and dynamics of grief, supervise all group programs and train the bereaved parents for their sensitive role as group leaders.Bereaved Families also provides educational programs and workshops for professionals and for the bereaved.