How to be there for a co-worker when tragedy strikes

Life is unpredictable. One moment everything can be falling apart – and then that one thing happens to turn it all around. But all too often life cuts the other way: things are going fine…and then tragedy strikes. It is difficult to watch a co-worker go through a tragedy, but how can you help?

guy man people dark shadow hands sad crying sleeping

“What can I do?” is the common question asked when our fellow colleague experiences heartbreak. We are social creatures and we naturally have a desire to help each other – this is especially true when you work with that person day in and day out. I am fortunate enough to work with people I like, and even go as far to say we love each other.

If you have been close to a heartbroken co-worker, you probably know well the struggle of knowing what to say, what to do, what to give, and so on and so on. It is made worse by stories we’ve heard of well meaning people who say or do something that turns out to hurt more than help.

But you can, and should, show your love and support for your co-worker in an appropriate way. Here are some simple things you can do:

  • Pray – While this is often said, just make sure you do it. It doesn’t take long. Rule of thumb: when you think of your colleague, just say a prayer right then and there.
  • Get a card and have the office sign it – Your other co-workers will want to express their love and support too. Give them a voice! Get a card and have everyone sign it, and then mail it to the colleague. There is just something about getting a card in the mail with words of support from your co-workers. That is something people put on their fridge.
  • Send flowers – You can order almost anything online these days, even flowers. Go to a site (like this) and send flowers to their house. It doesn’t have to be big – just something.
  • Setup a Meal Train for them – Meal Train is a fantastic website and easy to use. It is a way to coordinate meals for your co-worker. People can signup to deliver a meal or elect to have meals shipped directly to their house.
  • Setup a GoFundMe campaign – Often a tragedy is accompanied by an additional financial burden. Setup a GoFundMe campaign for your co-worker and share the link with your company. This can be a tangible way for people to show they care.
  • Show up – If you can, go visit them at the hospital. If it is a death in the family – go to the funeral. The point is, be physically present when you can. My mother once gave me this advice and I have found it to be true: “people will let you get away with missing a wedding, but always, always, go to the hospital and the funeral – they remember that!”
  • Communicate – This goes with the last bullet point. If you are their manager, make sure you are sharing information as appropriate (with their permission) – such as funeral time and location. Make sure you give everyone the opportunity to Show Up.
  • And finally, if appropriate, cry with them – I’ve personally gone through a tragedy in my life. I remember walking out into the waiting room at the hospital to see several friends and family. No one said a word – no fancy speeches, words of wisdom, no verses from the bible – my dad just hugged me and we all cried. I can tell you, I won’t forget that.

People remember these things. When a tragedy befalls your co-worker, you have the power to show them they are loved and supported. Don’t sit on the sidelines – get in there and take action.

What do you think? Did I miss something? What have you found to be the best way to show love and support to a fellow colleague when they go through a tragedy?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: