Effort Launched on Workplace Grief


(Saturday, September 15, 2007 9:43 AM EDT)

Normal day-to-day relationships with coworkers can be tricky, but imagine how much more complicated they become when a death occurs.

That's why the Point of Hope Grief Counseling Center offers free assistance to businesses and organizations to help deal with issues of loss and grief in the workplace.

Point of Hope, which is a part of Capital Hospice, has grief and loss professionals who try to answer questions such as: How should you act when your employee or co-worker experiences the death of a loved one? How should you handle the death of a coworker?

“We offer this service to the community because we feel we're part of the community,” said Point of Hope grief counselor Carmen Calatayud, who provides counseling in Arlington, Falls Church and McLean.

Whether grief in the workplace stems from large-scale tragedies, like the attack on the Pentagon on 9/11 or the Virginia Tech shootings, or from a more personal event, the center invites employers to call and enlist its services.

With grief counselors at all five Capital Hospice offices (Falls Church, Leesburg, Manassas, Washington, D.C. and Largo), Point of Hope is able to serve businesses and organizations throughout the metro area.

Services include counseling (both group and individual) and consultation to supervisors and human resources staff.

The organization also provides wellness programs to address stress, loss and transition, among other offerings.

“Grief doesn't stop at your front door,” Calatayud said. “If someone is grieving, things are going to be different for a while.”

Tips Calatayud has for employers who have someone coping with loss in the workplace include giving extra time off, realizing productivity may be down, lessening the workload and asking open-ended questions.

There also are things employees and coworkers should avoid doing or saying when someone is grieving in the workplace.

“There are clichés out there that are hurtful - ‘he's in a better place' or ‘it's for the best.'” Calatayud said. “The intent isn't to hurt, but people sometimes are scared and confused and don't know how to help.”

One of the worst things people can do is pretend a death didn't happen. It is better to say, “I don't know what to say, but I'm here to listen,” Calatayud said.

Grief counseling provided by Point of Hope is offered without charge to family members of hospice patients, and is available to interested individuals on a sliding-scale fee.

For more information on the Point of Hope Grief Counseling Center, see the Web site at www.pointofhope.org.

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