I fear my colleague is not coping well with a bereavement
Dear Ash,

One of my colleagues at work is increasingly behaving erratically at times. She seems to laugh and giggle at inappropriate times during meetings and I recently smelt some alcohol on her in the morning. I tried to ask her about it and she said she had been out late at night with friends and that I should just chill out and go out more myself. I am concerned as I used to count her as a close friend, but she is becoming more distant and unpredictable. I don’t know what has caused this change; I know that she had a close family bereavement about a couple of months ago, but I assumed that she was coping with this. I want to try to help her, but she seems to be unwilling to talk about it.


Ash replies:

I think your colleague is fortunate to have someone looking out for her. However, it is clear from what you are saying that she is in a period of denial. A bereavement can have certain phases such as denial, anger, guilt and even self-destruction. Although your colleague seemed perhaps initially, on the surface at least, to give the impression that she was coping with the bereavement, she is clearly now struggling.

If you are able to notice issues with your friend’s behaviour, it will only be a matter of time before others also pick up on it. I suggest that you try to talk to her about the bereavement rather than focus on her behaviour. Suggest going for a coffee or lunch and give her the opportunity to talk. Let her know that you are worried about her; sometimes just asking someone if they are OK gives them the push to begin to open up.

I also suggest that she look to seek some counselling for the bereavement, as it may help her to deal with her loss. Cruse Bereavement Care Scotland may be a good place to start; and they may be able to outline some coping strategies too. They also have a support line which your friend can call to talk things through initially.

You can only try to be there for your friend and to suggest support mechanisms, but it is up to your friend to seek the help in order to try to get better. She is, however, lucky to have you for support.

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and other legal professionals, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162, or by email: KatieWood@lawscot.org.uk

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