Whenever you walk in on someone crying, you can’t help but think “who died"? Yesterday, tragically, my question was the right one. I learned that a very close co-worker had passed unexpectedly the night before.

This news comes on the heels of a previous loss last week – one of our sales people died. HR had already done what they do in these instances – made sure everyone had the EAP number, worked with leadership to pass along information while retaining privacy for the family, looked at bringing in a grief counselor. It’s never easy when someone you know dies, but there’s a professional mindset that kicks in. You grieve, but you start working through the practical HR implications of the loss too. Until you lose one of your own.

The best way I can describe how we felt yesterday, is that we were the “surviving work spouse”. Our fellow recruiter who passed away was one of us. I sat next to her for the last two years. When I accepted a full time offer with Zones after starting as a contractor, she took me to a dive bar tucked behind a Chinese restaurant and got me shit-faced sloppy drunk. She was always the one to find an appropriate YouTube song to perfectly capture a recruiting moment. In fact, it was she who inspired our #recruitingmixtape Twitter campaign a couple of weeks ago. She was fiercely protective of her team, her recruits, her hiring managers. There is a gaping hole in the second cube on the right where she is supposed to be sitting.

These moments seem so utterly surreal. We keep expecting her to walk in. This can’t be true. She’s one of us. It wasn’t long before word started getting around. Our phones started ringing. IMs started buzzing. A few people came by, some bringing coffee, food, and our favorite candy (what can I say, we’re stress eaters). Yes, we’re recruiting, but part of HR. People view us as HR. So some wanted to talk to us like HR. We wanted to be the ones who could hand out the EAP number, comfort those who’d be recruited by her, hug the managers who’s teams she had built over the years, but we just couldn’t. WE were grieving. We lost our work sister. It was OUR loss. We couldn’t be the people others came to for support. We wanted to be the ones who could curl up in a ball of sadness and be supported.

I wasn't sure if I should write about this. It's such an intensely personal thing. She has a family, who's grief and need for privacy I want to be respectful of. This blog has become my outlet, my "diary" of sorts, so sharing with all of you is my way of releasing some of the pain. I needed to dump my emotions onto this page, as a way of sorting it all out. I also needed to honor my friend. I know you understand.

I don’t want to go to work today, but I don’t want to stay away either. I can’t face her empty seat, but I need my co-workers, my friends, my recruiting sisters today. And I’ll be thinking about my friend. My friend who’s favorite saint was St. Jude – Patron Saint of the Impossible. If you knew my friend, you’d know how appropriate that is. She pulled off the impossible every day.

RIP Raquel.

Views: 1066

Comment by Will Thomson on February 14, 2013 at 9:49am

Amy- that is awful.  Prayers go out to her family and everyone that worked with her.  Life is short, enjoy every moment you have with one another. 

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 14, 2013 at 9:52am

thank you Will. I'm all over the place emotionally right now - trying to get through my day like "normal" (whatever that is) but yet have moments when I feel like I got hit by a Mack truck. Our girls started college together this year and she's about my age... hits way too close to home on so many levels. Appreciate the prayers.

Comment by Derdiver on February 14, 2013 at 10:28am

Amy, normally I have words that make people smile, laugh, or cringe.  Having been in this situation way to many time in my life I have found these word to comfort me.  I pray that they do something for you.

I said, "God, I hurt."
And God said, I know."
I said, "God, I cry a lot."
And God said, "That is why I gave you tears."
I said, "God, I am so depressed."

And God said, "That is why I gave you Sunshine."
I said, "God, life is so hard."
And God said, "That is why I gave you loved ones."
I said, "God, my loved one died."
And God said, "So did mine."
I said, "God, it is such a loss."
And God said, I saw mine nailed to a cross."
I said, "God, but your loved one lives."
And God said, "So does yours."
I said, "God, where are they now?"
And God said, "Mine is on My right and yours is in the Light."
I said, "God, it hurts."
And God said, I know."

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 14, 2013 at 10:38am

Thank you so much Derek. :) I keep thinking of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, so yes I do find comfort in your words. Appreciate it so much.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 14, 2013 at 11:04am
Amy, just know that everyone who reads your thoughts about your friend and coworker is feeling a bit of your shock and loss. Perhaps it might help to think in terms of what would she do today if this were another member of the team. Would it help to gather your team for a few minutes for each to recall a memory of something she did or said that made the team laugh or feel good. God must have needed a good recruiter, we all know he is always looking for the best just as she did.

Write your personal goodbye to her, leave it in her cube today, then put those notes in an envelope and give to her family so at some time in the future they may read the thoughts of her "work family". Have a wake after work to wish her well in her new recruiting assignment.

Thinking of you, you know how to reach me.
Comment by Malia Jorgensen on February 14, 2013 at 11:57am

So sorry, Amy! I know we don't know each other, but my thoughts and prayers are with you.

Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 14, 2013 at 12:14pm

Sandra that is an amazing idea. I'm both laughing and crying right now thinking about what to write, and what she would do. The first thing she would do is find some wildly inappropriate (but in a way, appropriate) song and blast it from YouTube. Then, she would make sure we all headed straight to happy hour. She'd also make sure that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US was ok, knew how much she loved us, and was geniunely more concerned about us than herself.

Malia, thank you. I know we are not the only ones to go through this, and certainly not as affected as her poor family, but it still stings. I appreciate the prayers. :)

Comment by Amber on February 14, 2013 at 12:29pm

I'm glad Sandra's suggestions made you think about some of the happy memories. Go find that song!

There is so much in daily life that we get caught up in, and then there are events and moments that slam us back into perspective. I am thinking of you and her work family, and praying for her family. I know she was lucky to have you in her life - your blog is wonderful and can't be seen as anything but a loving tribute to someone you cared about.

Comment by Christopher Perez on February 14, 2013 at 2:45pm

Sorry for your loss, Amy. A person-- be it family member, colleague, friend, or in this case maybe all of the above?--who rates a tribute like the one you wrote, well, that person has left a mighty deep mark on the hearts and minds of those who knew her. That's a legacy we should all aspire to. RIP, Raquel.

Sandra's idea would be a fitting gift of warmth and compassion to her family. A few jobs back I was an executive with a company. I came to work one morning to learn the horrible news that one of our staff had died in an auto accident the night before. When the time was right, a few of us met with her parents to share stories of her work life; insights about her work ethic and team spirit that they may never have heard otherwise. It was a difficult conversation just on the basis of the raw empathy, but it was healing and I think gave them some comfort. Prayers for peace and strength for all affected by Raquel's loss.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 14, 2013 at 5:37pm

I recommend "Seven Spanish Angels" and where it uses the word man, substitute friend or team.

We do a monster job of funeralizing folks in Texas.  There is a lot of singing and praying and dinner on the ground then everybody gets nasty drunk after the Baptists leave and tells stories that start out, "Do you remember the time he put the sheep in the fountain at the company party.  Everybody laughs, crys a little and remembers a lot.  We also do a lot of , "if he were here tonight he would be saying something like, "man this is such a great party we will have to do it again next week."

Death is simply a stage of life for us Texans not really the end of anything.  We may lose sight of a person on a daily basis but if they touched our lives that fingerprint is always there and to be enjoyed just as we enjoyed them when they were in the next chair.  It's why we save the shoes of a favorite horse who crosses the rainbow bridge.  It is a symbol of the hoofprints on our hearts that never go away.


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