Workplace Memorials


Memorializing a life that was cut short is a common part of the grieving process in American culture and may seem like an appropriate way to remember a colleague lost to suicide. If done right, it can be. However, memorialization when the death is due to suicide is associated with risk, unlike the deaths from illness or accident due to the adverse effect of suicide contagion or copycat suicide. This risk must be considered when deciding if and how to memorialize a colleague in the workplace. Use the guidance on this page to develop a policy surrounding memorialization in your workplace.

Topic Content 

Instructions: Use the guidelines below to develop a policy surrounding memorializing an employee after a suicide loss.

Memorialization in the Workplace

What is a memorial?

Memorials can be events, activities, or objects that symbolize the remembrance of someone who has passed away, and can vary, sometimes greatly, by culture and the community in which the person lived. Examples of memorials can range from holding a one-time or annual event, adorning workspaces with notes and pictures, or planting a tree to erecting entire buildings, naming permanent benches or other public objects, and commissioning painted murals.

How can we safely honor and remember colleagues who have died by suicide in the workplace? 

Memorializing someone who died by suicide has associated risks that other deaths do not, specifically related to contagion or copy-cat suicide. For this reason, it is imperative to address precautions and considerations when deciding how the workplace will remember an individual who dies by suicide. It is also important that the workplace creates and adheres to a formal policy to demonstrate consistency and maintain fairness for the well-being of everyone.

Use the following recommendations and considerations to build your memorialization policy:

  1. While doing so might be helpful to the family, friends, co-workers, etc. not everyone knew the person who died and for some it might be distressing to have a memorial done that is different from all other memorials of those who died in another manner.
  2. Funerals or wakes should not take place in the workplace.
  3. Temporary memorials that are put up in a workplace are not recommended. Instead, allow grieving employees to bring a cards, flowers, pictures, or other mementos to a designated place within the workplace that can be delivered to the family.
  4. Permanent memorials are not recommended in places of work. However, if there is a physical location where a permanent memorial is allowed for all deaths, the suicide death should be permitted to be placed upon that memorial no different than all other deaths.
  5. Policies around tributes placed in workplace communications or disseminated in the workplace should be created.
  6. All deaths should be treated equally and/or in the same manner regardless of how the person died. This includes all messages, statements, actions, plans and policies around death in workplaces.
  7. Creating time and ways to remember and honor someone who died by suicide is important and should be time-limited in workplaces. A two week “active” grieving period is the common recommendation.

Common examples and recommended actions:

  • Employee/staff/team webpage: the person who died should not be memorialized on webpages.
  • Birthdays and anniversaries: it’s recommended this be left for the family to carry on in whatever way and tradition that they chose.
  • Events: special events to raise awareness of suicide and mental health can be a positive activity following the loss of a student or employee. This should be done more broadly than around the death of a particular person (i.e. do not name the event using the person’s name).
  • Donations/contributions: sharing reputable and accredited suicide prevention organizations/nonprofits such is helpful for people to get additional information on prevention, grief after suicide and as a place to support.