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Dear Annie: Does grief have boundaries at work?

Dear Annie: In the past couple of months, two of my work colleagues have lost someone close to them. We have a friendly relationship and although I’d certainly not fall into their close network of friends or support, I’d like to reach out. How much should I get involved?

Annie says: Managing grief in the workplace can be particularly difficult, especially if the nature of the relationships are predominantly professional. Bear in mind that for someone who is recently bereaved, boundaries around relationships tend to soften rather a lot.

They are likely to care a lot less about the rules of appropriateness and will be more in touch with their need for real genuine connection. Don’t be afraid to offer that to them. Try and forget formality, and be real with them. Name the fact that you are unsure of your role in their support network, but that you’d like to be part of it, if they want it.

Check in with them regularly – remember, it’s mostly at work that the bereaved feel their grief is forgotten first. So let them know you’re aware it’s going to take time. They may well want the distraction and not to be reminded, but ask them first.

Dear Annie I’ve heard there are ‘stages’ of grief. Does everyone go through them?

Annie says: Not necessarily and certainly not always in the order they are set out. Kubler Ross’s Stages of Grief is one of the many ‘models of grief’ – and not all of them will resonate. Don’t worry if you don’t identify with the stages of grief. Theories around grief are there to support you, but they are not definitive. Grieving is totally unique to each individual.

If you have a question for Annie to answer in this column, you can write to her at

About Annie

Annie Broadbent is a trained psychosynthesis counsellor, with specialist experience working with the bereaved. As a therapist she explores the mind, body, feelings and spirit, working with individuals in a way that is most appropriate for them.

She is the author of bestselling self-help book We Need to Talk About Grief, inspired by personal experiences of living through bereavement, including her own. Whilst writing her book, Annie volunteered at St Christopher's Hospice and has given a number of talks on issues around grief, bereavement and mental health.

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