How you approach grief and loss can impact your personal and professional life. Learning how to do so with grace is a valuable skill, now more than ever. But it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. If you’d like to improve your response to both your own grief and that of those around you, my own accountability partner Jennifer Takagi has the tools you need to get started.
The founder of Takagi Consulting, Jen is a speaker and author who helps business leaders cultivate highly productive environments. She also has a unique story that can teach you something about the grieving process.
ONE FATEFUL DAY
On April 19, 1995, Jennifer woke up sick. She debated going into work, but a soft, gentle voice whispered, “stay home and take care of yourself.” The voice was so affirming, she called in sick. Shortly after, the Oklahoma City bombing destroyed the building she worked in. 35 of her coworkers perished, leaving Jennifer to struggle through WHY she was spared.
In the months that followed, she and her surviving coworkers rebuilt the business. In the process, they encountered different types of leaders. Some leaders acknowledged that the survivors of the attack couldn’t leave their emotions at the door when they returned to work, and approached them with COMPASSION and UNDERSTANDING. While other leaders put blinders on, pushing through as normal. The difference was marked.
Then, thirteen years later, Jennifer’s parents passed away just 12 days apart. With what she experienced previously coupled with that experience, she became even more aware of the grieving process, leading her to write a book on the subject. Here are the TWO big things she wants you to know:
- GRIEF IS NOT A LINEAR PROCESS
Grief is a natural part of life, often causing physical pain. And just like how people heal from physical illness or injury differently, don’t expect a paint-by-number, formulaic process with grief.
GRIEF IS NOT LINEAR, but a personal journey, one that needs to be respected by others.
When you grieve, it’s important to remember that people may not be going through what you’re going through, which means they may not remember or understand every detail of your pain. The same goes for you when a friend or colleague is grieving. Allow people to BE WHERE THEY ARE and remind yourself that they’re not going to grieve like you do. Then, GIVE THEM GRACE.
- GRIEF IS INTEGRATED INTO LIFE
The fact is, people don’t leave their grief at home. Be willing to hear, to see, and to take in another person’s journey WHERE THEY ARE. When you can do this, you have the opportunity to treat loved ones, friends, and coworkers in a way that honors their grief.
Be aware of others’ needs as a WHOLE and not just what they can bring to your relationship or project.
Don’t be CRITICAL – instead be COMPASSIONATE.
A TIMELY LESSON
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all experiencing a COLLECTIVE GRIEF. From the loss of loved ones or community members, to job transitions or losses, to missed milestones, everyone is affected in some way.
As people start going back to school, work, and “regular” life, they will bring whatever bubbled up during COVID-19 with them.
Jennifer believes we need to know that the OLD WAYS of supporting each other no longer work. If you don’t recognize others’ feelings, you’re MISSING THE MOMENT. This makes understanding grief a timely lesson for today.
Make it a goal to support others. The fact is, no matter what they’re going through, if you give others the tools to succeed, they will. And if they aren’t able, you can be the one who reminds them of their WORTH, even amidst difficult times.
Together, we can approach grief and loss with GRACE.
Learn more about Jennifer Takagani, and her NEW online course at her website. This course, How Great Leaders Build Great Teams, provides strategies to build up your leadership skills and in turn build a team that works better together.