This week my mom passed away from cancer.

I have told my boss and he has given me time off. I'm in a telecommute position and so I am not in the same office as my coworkers. I'm a private person and don't like to bring personal drama into the workplace. I have one coworker who knew my mom had cancer. Is it ok to volunteer the info that she died?

  • 3
    Commiserations. It's a hard time for you, do whatever you want.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 14, 2016 at 21:55
  • I'm sorry for your loss. Must've been a hard hit, take your time. This is not an answer but, if I was your boss, I'd ask if you would prefer me to inform your colleagues about your time off for these days and the circumstances (or answer honestly if they ask v. not telling).
    – Marc.2377
    Oct 15, 2016 at 5:35
  • 4
    Further to what Marc said above, in the UK it is entirely normal to ask your boss to inform your co-workers on your behalf. In fact it is probably the least stressful way for everyone. This way you don't have to go through such a painful conversation more than once, and your co-workers know that they should avoid certain topics for a while. Your friends at work will come right out and comfort you and do what they can to help you, that is for sure. My condolences.
    – user47698
    Oct 15, 2016 at 11:23

4 Answers 4


Professionally speaking, it is completely acceptable to share this sort of information with a coworker. However, you are not expected to share this information either. If you wish to do so, then share, but if you choose to keep things private that is perfectly fine as well.

  • 8
    For Norway I would replace expected with required in this answer, because absolutely no one would think sharing such a thing would be out of order. In fact not sharing would be seen as a bit strange and non-normal, and the social expectancy would be that you tell.
    – hlovdal
    Oct 15, 2016 at 8:53
  • 3
    Hmmm, socially required maybe. I wouldn't just say required because that makes me think there would be a company rule about it. When rules are broken there is a punishment. Really can't imagine a suitable punishment in these circumstances. Oct 15, 2016 at 17:36
  • @hlovdal "In fact not sharing would be seen as a bit strange and non-normal, and the social expectancy would be that you tell." I don't think that's true in all office cultures. In the places I have worked the custom is that personal lives are personal, and no one is socially obligated to share anything that isn't work related. That doesn't mean that talking about home life and families isn't a good thing that helps foster office relationships, but when you are a private person (like the OP) dealing with a particularly emotional issue (like death), no one is going to blame you for not sharing.
    – David K
    Oct 17, 2016 at 15:32

I'm sorry for your loss. It has to be a difficult time for you.

A lot of this comes down to a few things:

  • Your relationships with coworkers
  • Your comfort level with sharing personal information

Being out for "bereavement" is probably enough to communicate to coworkers. They will know, particularly if it's a longer timeframe, that it was a big deal to you. And depending on the relationships you have, potentially ask or see what they can do to support you.

Whether or not it's "bad" to not say anything directly will largely depend on the above two bullet points.

  • 3
    This answer provides much more detail and I feel covers things more thoroughly. The one thing I'd add is that it's also sensitive to conversational context. Even if you have a close working relationship with Joe and are comfortable sharing, just calling him up and saying "Hey Joe, my mom passed away a couple days ago" is socially awkward and probably would not be appreciated. OTOH, if Joe emails you and says "hey, I see you're out on leave, hope everything's okay", then by all means feel free to share if you're comfortable with it.
    – Doktor J
    Oct 14, 2016 at 22:23

This is culturally dependent. Where I live, in Israel, it is customary to inform everyone, either by hanging a notice or by sending a mail. Often HR handles this. Of course the person involved may opt out.


It is entirely professional to tell your co-workers why you will (or might) unexpectedly not be working for a while - if your work involves regular interaction with other team members, your physical location isn't very relevant to the situation. The impact on the work of the team as a whole will be pretty much the same, whatever the reason is for your unplanned absence.

It is not professional to put them in a situation where they might feel pressured to join in your mourning and grieving - unless some of them knew your mom personally, of course.

You are now in a situation where something very important to you has just happened, but most of the rest of the world neither knows, nor really wants to know, about it. Finding a way to handle that situation is part of the grieving and "healing" process that you have just started to go through.

  • Note that merely mentioning the passing of your mother should not invoke a sense of pressure.
    – jpmc26
    Oct 15, 2016 at 17:22

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