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How can I provide support to my employee?

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My employee's wife is losing her battle with breast cancer. It has metastisized to her bones, spine, brain, etc... They are about to begin brain radiation. I think it's safe to assume they are nearing the end of the fight. I am just looking for suggestions on ways I can support him. How can I help him through this? What do I say to him? He and his wife are young - both under 50. They have 3 kids, the youngest of whom is only 7. I want so much to be a good boss and a good friend and support sytem, but I've never been through cancer support before.


Any ideas or suggestions you have are sincerely appreciated.



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Hi Sara-


I would imagine the best support you could give your employee is understanding and time. He may experience a maelstrom of emotions. He may be moody, distracted, consumed, fatigued, and feel overwhelmed. Each person is different to how they respond... It's hard to anticipate what another person will feel or how they will handle it.  If you work for a large corporation, they may provide counseling for staff. Check with your HR department and see if they have anything available. If there is, let him know there is a hotline to call if he ever feels a need to speak with someone.

My best advice is try and be patient and understanding.  Maybe even taking up a collection at the office for his family, have people chip in and send over healthy home cooked meals. For me, if people didn't remind me to eat or drink, I would forget to. As far as cooking was concerned, as much as I love to, I didn't have the energy for it.

I hope this was helpful in some way for you.

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I just saw your post and I'm so very impressed that you are seeking thoughts on how to help your employee. If only all employers were so kind. Having cared for a loved one and grieved her death, I will share that there were several things my employer did to help me during that difficult time. The first and most important thing that you can offer is time... He will need time to grieve. He will now be a single parent so practically speaking, he will need time to care for his children. Flexibility at work is so helpful - to give him the time he needs and ease that stress. The other thing that my employer did was ease some of the responsibilities... It took 6 months to a year before I felt that I was "present" and contributing at work. It was hard to concentrate, had to stay on top of things... There were days/anniversaries where I just had to give myself permission to know that I would not be very productive... And that's ok. In the end, grieving and working through the loss helped me recover and get back into life. My coworkers were helpful in that they would take some jobs for me... To cut me some slack. And, the financial burden can be difficult, they even took a collection and bought me some restaurant gift cards, delivered food, etc... Just to make life a little easier. Perhaps he won't be Christmas shopping this year... Maybe you can organize some gifts for the kids and deliver them "Secret Santa." Anything is helpful and will be appreciated. And of course, they made a donation to a cancer foundation in my mother's name which meant so much to me.

As an employer, there is much you can do to help this person and I can tell you, although he may be so lost and may not tell you such... It will be appreciated more than you will ever know and never forgotten. All the best to you and your employee.

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