Recently, I lost a colleague. I not only lost a coworker, but a new friend. (We were in the early stages of friendship; as we had just begun bonding over the reality of parenthood.) She, like me, was a teacher. And, as our school is grappling with the daunting task of trying to start the year with students, everyone is simply trying to process how to deal with this loss – the loss of a coworker, teacher, mentor, and friend.
Each of us has our own way of dealing with loss. Some choose humor and/or work as distractions, while others simply distract themselves with mundane tasks. And, yet, still more simply break down and give in to all of the emotions before trying to put themselves back together. I, of course, have my own way of dealing with this incomprehensible thing. However, as I am working through my own stages of grief, I decided to use it as a tool for others. Below I’ve come up with 7 ways to deal with the loss of a coworker. Of course, this post will be more specific to the business of teaching and how losing a teacher colleague has numerous effects.
Ways to deal with the loss of a coworker:
1. Allow yourself to indulge in whatever emotions and thoughts come.
It’s easy to push aside some emotions and feelings if you are not particularly close to someone. But, it is also easy to do that when you are close, as well. Whatever feelings and emotions arise, there is a reason. You need to work through each of them in your own time.
2. Work through your emotions away from work.
It would be easy for many people to dive into work as a distraction. But, you need to give yourself time to process the sadness and loss of your coworker away from where you remember them most. Before you return back to work prepare yourself for any and all emotions that will return with you when you see their former office or classroom.
3. Work through your emotions at work.
When you enter your place of work after losing a colleague or coworker, you will be reminded of them and the moments you shared. You will have to work through that in your own way. Remember that you are not the only one that has lost someone.
4. Do not spend a lot of time alone.
Unless you are in a small business partnership, you will not be the only one dealing with this loss. Yes, time alone is warranted, but you also need to spend time with other people who share sadness and grief over this loss. You can get together with other colleagues and share wonderful memories or try to understand the situation, pray, or sit in silence – whatever is needed.
I am choosing to journal my emotions, my feelings. (Hence the reason for this post.) My head keeps thinking of all of the students that will walk into school tomorrow and be devastated because she is not here to greet them back from summer. I also keep thinking of specific students who saw her as not only their teacher, but a role model, mother figure, and confidante. I am preparing myself for their tears, their anger, and their lack of understanding that matches my own.
A great way to release your own emotions is to write or draw them. We cannot keep them bottled up inside us as we mourn the loss of a coworker or friend. They must come out so that we can deal with them and piece our lives back together.
6. Attend the funeral or memorial service.
If you are able to attend the actual funeral or memorial service, do so. If you are not able to, as I am not, hold one yourself. We are asking the students tomorrow how they would like to remember their teacher. What can we do on campus to memorialize her?
7. Seek out on-going support
Once enough time has passed, and you start to feel somewhat normal again, something will remind you of your lost coworker, friend, colleague and you need to ensure that you have on-going support. Grief is not something you get over quick and easy. It is a journey we have to embark on with a support system.
When you lose a coworker, time is the only thing guaranteed to keep moving. Remember that people do not always know what to say or do in times of tragedy. And, we all deal with it differently. So, look after yourself and surround yourself with people that will allow you to work your way through grief, but that will also help pick you up when you’re ready. If, like in this case, students are mourning the loss of a teacher, make sure that you are also addressing the other things that students need. (See this post as a guide.)
Our counselor shared the following quote, which really spoke to me. Thus, I am going to share it with you…
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