Do’s and don’ts for leading following a bereavement

Below are some suggested ‘do’s and don’ts for leading and managing your teams after a bereavement…


  • Take your time: when calling on a vulnerable person or the bereaved give the time needed to demonstrate care.
  • Listen to the story: talking is important for the distressed, use active listening to show you understand.
  • Provide information: make sure you have relevant written information and guidance to share.
  • Be creative: although there are strict rules on not spreading infection, be personal and innovate.
  • Show respect: people may have strong religious or other beliefs. Be respectful of what matters to them.
  • Accept the depth of their sorrow: grief for some is worse than physical pain, acknowledge the pain they experience.
  • Have patience: distress makes it difficult for people to think straight, be patient and allow time for answers.
  • Follow the guidance: the 10-steps for managers in the event of a death or suicide in service offers a clear process for line managers following the death of a colleague


  • Make assumptions: everyone behaves differently when distressed, there is no normal response to grief or COVID-19.
  • Blame you or others for failing: hear them out and accept what is true and recognise this response as frustration.
  • Make promises you cannot keep: be realistic in what you can offer.
  • Dismiss values and beliefs: people may express harmful thoughts or behaviours, check if they are at risk of suicide.
  • Don’t forget the children: make sure that children are involved and their needs to understand are met. (if this is appropriate)
  • Put yourself or your colleagues at risk: make sure you balance compassionate leadership with maintaining safety standards and procedures.
  • Expect to make things better: recognise you cannot stop the pain, but you can help reduce it a little.

If you are concerned about a colleague

There is a tragic reality that some of us will have concerns about colleagues at risk of harming themselves or taking their life by suicide. Flags to be aware of include communicating that they are feeling much worse, saying they would ‘rather not be here’. You might be aware that they have considered suicide previously or have ideas about how they would kill themselves. It can also be more subtle including appearing restless and agitated, not wanting to talk to people, or not coping with everyday tasks.

It is important to remain calm and not panic.

  • If you are worried someone may be in immediate danger, call the emergency services
  • If you are worried about the person but do not think they are in immediate danger encourage them to talk about their feelings and to seek help
  • Asking simple, direct questions can help. This includes asking someone whether they are having suicidal thoughts. Ask open questions, give them time to respond and try not to judge
  • Make sure you get support as well. Caring for someone else who is suicidal can be very emotionally draining. Remember, it’s ok to ask for help!

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