As a leader, not to mention just as a human being, we are all going to experience loss throughout our lives. Loss can be anything from a favorite pen to a loved one passing away. My Dad passed away from lung cancer four years ago when I was 22 he was 44. The purpose of this post is to share some of the tools I have learned for dealing with loss, though I am by no means an expert.
Toolkit Item #1 – What You Are Feeling Is Real
Even though it may sound kind of obvious the sadness, anger, guilt, and fear we fill when we experience loss is important for us to examine so that we can heal. Unfortunately, one of the most common ways of dealing with grief is to not deal with it at all, which causes problems for us later. These feelings are real and it is important to express them in healthy ways. Just a few healthy ways include crying, laughing, writing, talking, and praying.
Toolkit Item #2 – Find Your Support System and Use It
Hopefully, at this point in your leadership development, you have a healthy support system around you to help you cope with problems. These are the people in your life that help you deal with issues at work, school, with significant others, and with friends. For some reason, after we have experienced a loss we tend to forget we have our support system ready to help us or we are not comfortable talking to them about our feelings surrounding the loss we have suffered. The same people you talk to about job and relationship issues are the same people who can lend an ear in times of loss and grief as well.
Another great support system to gain is to see a counselor (if you’re comfortable) for a period of time to help you deal with some of the thoughts and feelings surrounding loss. Dealing with grief is a big deal and having an objective person to help you can really be an asset. As leaders we do so much to help others. Counseling is a way to help yourself so that you, as a leader, can continue to help others.
Toolkit Item #3 – It Always Ends Up Better to Do Than Not to Do
Have you ever had the experience of wanting to be left alone when you are with a bunch of people or wanting to be around people when you are alone? This experience can be magnified quite a bit when we experience loss. There are certainly times when, even without a major loss, we just want to lay in bed and do absolutely nothing. I have always found though, especially after a loss, that I always felt better when I got out of bed and did something than when I just stayed at home.
Toolkit Item #4 – Make New Traditions
One of the hardest parts of dealing with a loss is no longer being able to do the same traditions because of the loss. Make new traditions to honor the old memories and make new ones with the people you care about. It isn’t inappropriate to say to people you care about, “we always used to do this, what can we do now together”. New traditions will allow you to have new enjoyable experiences while keeping memories alive.
Toolkit Item #5 – Make A Plan
Loss is going to change your priorities at least for the very short term if not for the long term. This is a great opportunity to reexamine what is currently on your plate and to be conscious in letting others know what you can and cannot continue doing. Most of the things that are going to be changed will be short term. For example, missing a few days of work, class, extra-curricular activities to take care of yourself. The planning part of this is extremely important because effective leaders work hard to plan so that even when small or large changes need to be made they can make others aware of it to ease transitions.
Lastly, not a tool but more of a truth: things are going to get better. Things will never get better fast enough and they will not be the same but they will get better.
If you have questions or would like some more tips/thoughts about dealing with loss please donot hesitate to contact me.