Canva grief and loss support guide
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Supporting Canvanauts through grief and loss

Canva’s Global Head of People Jennie Rogerson shares actions we’ve taken to support Canvanauts through loss, including our Grief and Loss Support Guide template.


Please note this article contains discussions about death, grief, loss, miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death.

When a close friend died suddenly a few years ago I travelled from Australia back to my home in England to be at his funeral, to grieve, and to tell stories of his life. Out of discomfort and uncertainty, I didn’t tell anyone from my then workplace and I definitely didn’t speak about how much it was affecting my day to day. Very sadly, I don’t think my experience is as uncommon as we’d hope.

While many of us have been directly impacted by loss, it can still feel difficult to talk about death or grief, particularly in the workplace. We often don’t know what to say if it happens to us, or how to comfort someone experiencing loss, and so we resort to giving people space or saying nothing at all. While well intentioned, in many cases, this approach can leave those grieving without support or anyone to talk to about their potentially new situation or circumstances.

At Canva, while we’ve always had a variety of things in place to support our team through life’s challenges (Compassionate Leave, Flex Leave, internal coaching sessions, free counselling sessions for our team and their families), a year ago we hadn’t yet created dedicated support or resources for the very unique experience of grief and loss.

Through our Fix It Form (a form open to all Canvanauts to submit ideas which is read and actioned by our founders, leadership team and people team), someone sent a note to say:

Our grief support can be improved - it is currently a 'give people space' attitude, which works - but we can do better to support folks. [...] Each type of grief is different and everyone experiences it differently, but we can certainly equip managers and peers with small, workable lists to help them navigate the return to work for peers who are grieving.

Our Fix It Form for Canvanauts to submit their ideas

The teammate who shared this with us had been through grief themselves and wanted to share their learnings about loss, and what they had heard helped others, in case it was helpful to anyone at Canva going through similar experiences.

While it’s still early days, and there’s much for us to learn and keep improving on, one of the key actions we hear from the team that is most impactful for those grieving or supporting those through grief following the Fix It Form submission was the creation of Canva’s Grief and Loss Support Guide.

Our intention is to share this guide openly for anyone who is grieving, or looking to support a teammate grieving. The idea is that they can either take the ideas they need from our guide, or take the whole guide as a starting point, make it their own, and share with others in their team who may need it.

A slide from a recent Season Opener keynote on the importance of kindness

How we created our Grief and Loss Support Guide

We wanted the guide to be as helpful as we possibly could, so we started with four guiding principles:

  1. A simple but impactful toolkit with tangible steps for individuals and teams
  2. Created by Canvanauts, for Canvanauts: sharing tips and resources that helped them
  3. Helpful resource globally through understanding grief within cultural contexts
  4. Ensure all content was moderated by a qualified grief counsellor on the Canva team

Creating the guide through lived experiences

To build the guide, led by the teammate who had submitted the Fix It Form (also a qualified grief counsellor) and Sarah Benjamin from our People team, we brought our team together, with a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds and experiences, to form a global working group.

An excerpt from Canva’s Grief and Loss Guide (linked below)

We shaped the guide to cover topics we heard were most meaningful and impactful from the working group, including:

  • Understanding grief: We wanted to recognise and create guidance for different types of loss, including the death of a loved one, miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death.
  • Supporting a grieving team member: Many people lean away when a loss happens because they are unsure what to say. We wanted to include specific guidance on potentially helpful phrases or actions to show ongoing kindness over a longer timeline.
  • Steps for coaches: We wanted to support our coaches (managers) to care for their teams by including guidance on topics like communicating empathetically, how to encourage time off, communication preferences/timeline, as well as how to support the team around the person who is grieving.

A comment from a Canva coach (manager) on the guide

Sharing our guide to help others

If you are reading this because you are going through grief or loss, or you know someone who is, please know you are not alone in this journey.

By sharing where we are currently, we hope to give a starting point for others looking to provide support during times of grief and loss, especially in a work context – because the more we talk about grief and loss at work, the closer we are to removing the taboo and creating more human experiences to support each other.

Here’s the template to our guide if you would like to use it.

Jennie

Download Canva's Grief & Loss Guide Template