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.

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Comment by Amy Ala Miller on February 20, 2013 at 8:52am

Sandra that's a very good description of my uncle's funeral over 20 years ago. :) He was a biker so there was a parade of over 100 Harleys in the procession and it was the first time in my life I got intoxicated (I was in high school, but that didn't stop my cousins from sharing).

Raquel's service was Sunday, it was nice to see so many people from work come to pay their respects and not just HR. We had a vigil for both team members last Friday where someone had already stolen your idea Sandra - there was plenty of paper to write memories down that would be bound later into a book for the family.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on February 20, 2013 at 10:17am
Honoring a life well lived in whatever form is the best tribute. Writing a tribute is healing for everyone as well as a permanent remembrance. I write some of those to people while they are still with us so I'm not standing around after the fact wishing I had told them.
Comment by Kathleen Smith on March 4, 2013 at 5:09pm

Amy I hope you are doing better with the loss. A challenge will be helping your colleague's family deal with the social footprint your colleague left. This is a new area that our society is not quite ready to deal with. Another commenter and I had to deal with this as a recruiter passed away and we had to handle his social profiles. The networks now ask for all of the formal documents to close down an account and some families are not prepared for this. 

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