Losing a family member can be devastating, but if someone you work with dies, the impact can be just as hard to cope with.
For the team at Synergi, a Gateshead-based technology company, the sudden death of a much-loved colleague earlier this year came as a terrible shock to everyone who worked with her.
Nikki Peacock was 49 and had been employed as Marketing Manager at Synergi since 2019 and in the short time had made a big impact on her team. Her colleague and friend, Synergi Chief Operating Officer Justin Short, said:
“The day we lost Nikki started as any other day; the previous day we’d had a few meetings with Nikki in the morning but she didn’t feel well, so finished work early. I messaged her at lunchtime to find out how she was and received a call from her son, who told me she was being taken to the hospital and we realised that her condition had become serious very quickly. I tried to contact the hospital throughout the evening but in the early hours of the morning her brother got in touch to tell me the very sad news that Nikki had died overnight.
“I was in complete shock, I felt numb. It took me a long time to process the terrible news. I knew I had to let the other staff know as soon as possible, but as we were in lockdown and working from home, the only way to make sure everyone knew was to tell them via a video call. It was very difficult as it was such a shock to everyone. I hadn’t got it straight in my own head. It wasn’t until I met up with my business partner, Peter and we started to talk about Nikki and our memories of her, that it truly hit me that she was gone.
“Nikki was a wonderful woman, a key member of our team and her personality meant everyone was drawn to her. She was highly respected at work and was a huge, bubbly, vibrant character, always so full of life and enthusiasm. She was just incredibly positive and fun to be around and her death has left a huge hole in our team.”
Losing Nikki was made all the more difficult due to lockdown restrictions, meaning that her work family were unable to travel to her hometown in Yorkshire, to pay respects at her funeral. This affected how her friends were able to grieve in the weeks following her death, as Justin explains:
“Although we understood why, it was very difficult not being able to say goodbye to Nikki, especially as her death was so sudden. She was such a larger than life character, it was hard to accept we wouldn’t see her again. Nikki’s favourite colour was orange, so we sent a huge bouquet of orange flowers to her funeral.
“Another difficulty was that we were working at home so unable to be there in person to support each other. It’s hard to talk about something so raw on the phone or a video call, so I started to look for ways to help us all through the grieving process. We put together a digital book of condolences which we shared on LinkedIn, for current and former colleagues of Nikki’s to add to. It was very moving to see the photos and memories people shared. Someone said they would always remember Nikki for her distinctive fashion sense. She always wore bright colours and was just a joyous person to have around.”
Justin and his team have since started to work with St Oswald’s Hospice to develop a remembrance function on the hospice’s website, giving bereaved people somewhere to share memories, photos, funeral information and light a star or candle for their friend, colleague or loved one. St Oswald’s already offers an in memory campaign at Christmas called Light up a Life, which invites people to dedicate a light on the hospice Christmas tree in their loved one’s name, as well as a special service they can join in with. The hope is that this additional offer can provide a place for people to be together in grief where they might not be able to comfort each other in person.
“When I heard about Light up a Life and the plans to develop an online platform, it struck me as exactly what we would have loved to do for Nikki. When someone dies, you just look for something to do and having a way to celebrate life and bring people together is something I think would have given our team much comfort. We’ll be lighting a candle for Nikki this Christmas remembering her for the amazing lady she was.”