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By October 6, 2017

This fall has been full of hurricanes, earthquakes, fires and mass shootings. This can take a toll on us, both personally and in our workplace. Many of us know family, friends, coworkers and colleagues that have been touched by one of the recent incidents affecting our nation. When rough times and tragedy strikes, we often feel inadequate in our ability to respond to those around us. We don’t know what to say. We don’t know how much to say. We are therefore often silent. How do we support ourselves and those we work with? Included below are some behaviors to watch for in ourselves and others, as well as some tips to move forward and support those we work with.

Trauma can affect you physically, emotionally, cognitively and behaviorally. Signs to watch for:

  • Some physical manifestations may be unusual fatigue, chest pain, headaches and dizziness.
  • Feelings of uncertainty, confusion, grief, fear, guilt, intense anger, apprehension, depression, irritability, and chronic anxiety.
  • It may be difficult to pay attention, concentrate, make decisions, solve problems, or remember things.
  • One may find it difficult to rest, withdraw from contact with others, become irritable and antisocial, drink more alcohol, and eat significantly more or less than before.

Watch for these symptoms in yourself and others. Recognize that trauma affects people differently and healing happens faster in some than in others. Compassion, empathy and patience is critical during these times.

Some things you can do to help include acknowledging loss and offering support. Show your care and concern. Verbally tell someone, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” Leave a card on their desk or send a friendly text, “thinking about you.” These simple gestures let your coworker know they are not alone and you are concerned. Sometimes a warm smile as you pass their office or the simple phrase, “How are you doing today?” is helpful.

And of course, respect their privacy and don’t take it personally if they can’t or won’t talk about their situation. They may be too raw at the moment. It may be difficult, but a balance must be found between being helpful and not being helpful.

Allow for time-off and know that we all cope and heal in our own time. Don’t expect someone who loses a loved one to “bounce back” after a few days or weeks. The stages of grief take time, sometimes months and years.

Counseling, through an employer sponsored Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), can be a life saver. This employee benefit can provide excellent results for relatively little cost. If your organization doesn’t have one and would like more information, go to: and

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