In academia, as in any workplace, you encounter the personal tragedies of the people around you. Colleagues experience illness, divorce, death, and more. As much as anything I’ve written about in this series, those traumatic events interrupt the life of the mind. Academics lead uniquely solitary work lives. Yet at the same time, we are uniquely tied to our work — and therefore to our colleagues. For example, we form long-lasting relationships across time and space: We stay in touch with our advisers and fellow students long after leaving graduate school behind. Our fields tend to be closed universes in which relationships grow across institutions, states, and national borders.
All of which means that, in many ways, academia is like an extended family, not just a job. For the sake of our extended academic families, I decided to learn more about how to react better to personal tragedies in our midst. I reached out to two academic professionals who have experienced significant personal tragedies during their careers. It’s normal to have trouble saying the right thing when someone near you is suffering. These colleagues have given some simple guidelines to help make things easier. To read these guidelines columnist Katie Rose has put together, visit Vitae. Photo by Kevin Dooley