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The Empty Chair: Coping with Loss in the Workplace

5 ways to support each other after a loss of a colleague


The Empty Chair: Coping with Loss in the Workplace

The sudden passing of DJ Steve Wright has not only left a void in the hearts of his listeners but has also sparked an outpouring of support and messages to BBC Radio 2.


Colleagues and friends have come together to pay tribute to him, reflecting on the impact he had on their lives and the industry as a whole. This moment of collective mourning sheds light on the unique experience of grief in the workplace, where the loss of a colleague can reverberate throughout the entire organisation.


Statistics reveal that on average, we spend a significant portion of our lives at work—approximately one-third of our waking hours. In essence, our colleagues become a second family, and the loss of one among them can be profoundly felt.


The familiar sight of an empty chair, once occupied by a vibrant presence, serves as a poignant reminder of the void left behind.


Grieving in a professional setting can be challenging. While colleagues may not be in the immediate circle of loss, their grief is valid and deserving of acknowledgment.


Here are some ways to support each other through this difficult time:


1. Active Listening

Take the time to listen empathetically to your colleagues as they share memories and emotions associated with the loss.


Validate their feelings and offer a supportive presence without judgement. Sometimes, just being there to lend an ear can provide immense comfort.


2. Creating Space for Remembrance

Encourage colleagues to share stories and anecdotes about the departed individual, fostering a sense of collective remembrance.


Whether through informal conversations or organised memorial events, their legacy can help alleviate the sense of loss and keep their memory alive.


3. Offering Practical Support

Understand that grief can impact individuals in various ways, affecting their ability to focus and perform tasks effectively.


Offer practical support, such as assisting with workload management or providing flexibility in deadlines, to alleviate some of the stress during this challenging period.


4. Seeking Professional Help

Recognise when grief transcends normal coping mechanisms and consider seeking professional support for yourself or colleagues who may be struggling to process the loss.


Employee assistance programmes, grief specialists or bereavement counselling services can offer valuable resources and guidance to support grief in the workplace.


5. Fostering a Supportive Culture

Cultivate an environment where open communication and emotional expression are encouraged. By fostering a culture of empathy and support, colleagues can feel safe to share their feelings and seek assistance when needed, strengthening bonds within the workplace community.


Coping with Loss in the Workplace

The empty chair in the office serves as a tangible reminder of the fragility of life and the profound impact individuals have on those around them. By embracing empathy, active listening, and collective remembrance, colleagues can go through grief together, finding solace in each other's presence and shared memories.


In remembering those we've lost, we not only pay tribute to their contributions but also reaffirm the strength of human connection in times of sorrow.


About Emma


Emma Tomes

Emma Tomes organisations and individuals offering one-to-one support, training, and workshops on an array of subjects, including resilience, stress management, setting healthy boundaries, grief in the workplace, and more. Bespoke workshops for organisations are available to meet specific needs. You can learn more about Emma here.

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