Managing grief and loss

Last Saturday, my father passed away after suffering from cancer for over 2 years.

My initial response was to tell everyone I was ‘fine’ and to think about how I would juggle business commitments around funeral arrangements.

We all process grief and loss in quite different ways. For me, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, dealing with change, or being made redundant at work, my logical brain kicks in and, ‘I just want to get on with it’.

My stoicism is how my logical brain protects me from any state of overwhelm or feeling that I am on an uncontrollable and emotional roller coaster.

However, putting on a brave face for the world means I don’t give myself any time to grieve and I have been guilty of ‘knee-jerk’ decisions, based on how I was feeling at the time.

This time however, I took the ‘out of character’ decision to slow down, reflect, accept and enjoy tearful moments and understand that the world keeps on turning whether I am fully present, or not.

As a coach, I often use the Kubler-Ross ‘5 stages of grief’ or the ‘change curve model’ to discuss change and loss, which are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed this model to offer insights into how people cope with illness and dying. The stages however are not a linear and predictable progression, as some may believe, and are not a reflection of how people grieve. I have felt tiredness, exhaustion and acceptance this week but, not necessarily in that order.

This week, I am learning more about myself by being mindful, embracing my emotions, rather than searching for facts and logic. This process feels uncomfortable because ‘old habits die hard’ and unlearning is much harder than learning anything new.

Whether you have lost a loved one, are dealing with redundancy, or are managing massive change in your life:

  • give yourself the space and time to reflect and grieve.
  • talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling and, where necessary, seek professional help.
  • try to get sleep and rest.
  • accept that you may feel many emotions before you can learn to accept the situation and move on at your own pace.
  • be kind to yourself.

‘Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.’

Enjoy your health, time with your family, vacations, friends, etc, today. Enjoy life!

RIP Dad – 22.10.1939 to 29.05.2021

Redundancy: learning from the biggest taboo

“I understand what being made redundant feels like. I’ve been there. I knew change was on its way, but I never actually believed that it would affect me and when it did, my world stopped revolving. I felt angry, I felt sad, I felt happy, and then I felt angry all over again. I was surrounded by incompetent people, so why was I being made redundant?  I went through all the emotions on the change curve; one’s that I had learned as a manager; and I was gobsmacked that I was feeling the way that most text books described. I felt embarrassed by my predicament and having to explain my new situation to anyone was excruciating.

For me, talking to others, brought healing. My anger subsided, I felt less sorry for myself and I began to realise that while I was not entirely at fault, there may have been things that I could have done differently while I was employed. Talking to friends and family helped me to accept my situation. I became more self-aware and I explored new opportunities. It also helped me to articulate my story with a little more ease and taught me that showing this new vulnerable side of myself wasn’t as negative as I had led myself to believe. Redundancy is not a dirty word!” Published with permission from the author.

What can be learned from redundancy on the short term:

  • Talk about it. Talking is often a good way to soothe painful emotions. Talking to a friend, family member, health professional or coach can help the healing process.
  • Allow yourself to feel sad. It’s a healthy part of the ‘grieving’ process.
  • Keep up your routine. Keeping up simple things, like going for a run or walking the dog can help.
  • Sleep. Emotional strain can make you very tired. If you’re having trouble sleeping, please consult your GP.
  • Eat healthily. A healthy, well-balanced diet may help you cope better.
  • Avoid things that “numb” the pain, such as alcohol. It will make you feel worse once the numbness wears off.
  • Speak to a coach or counsellor – Only you will know if this is right for you.

What can be learned on the longer term:

  • Use the time to become more self-aware. No new organisation would go to market without a business plan and a strategy, so reflect on what you have learned from your situation, think about your own personal brand, what you are good at, what you love doing and create your own game plan. You may also want to read one of my latest blogs: How to accelerate your career.
  • Stop using the word ‘redundant’. There are many reasons why companies make employees redundant. For a prospective employer, hearing that a company has restructured, downsized or moved to another location and how any one of these changes affected your position, will make sense.
  • Update your CV.
  • Reach out to your network. By the time you do this, you should be able to articulate your story as positively as possible. Know what you want, and while I wouldn’t suggest that you ask everyone in your network for a job, you may ask them to consider you, if they hear of something.
  • Approach recruiters.

People who lose their jobs through redundancy don’t own this space. Similar feelings and emotions are described by people when they experience any massive change e.g. losing a loved one, going through a divorce, losing your home, becoming insolvent, moving to the other side of the world for work or study and leaving family and/or friends behind, etc. It’s often hard to look on the bright side and it’s almost impossible to learn from the experience while you’re in it. The future however, can be bright.

Helen Martin is a qualified coach and trainer and lives in London. She is a member of the Association for Coaching and coaches individuals through change. Helen coaches 2 people per month at no charge. She can be contacted here.