grief at work02 Jul 2022
i can’t remember exactly when it started, but for at least the last few years, i’ve been paying an increasing amount of attention to grief. there was a point where i read francis weller’s book, martín prechtel’s book, and was listening to lama rod owens on instagram and the internet talk about grief (like this video) during the early parts of the covid-19 pandemic (those videos have been taken off of his instagram and yes, i’m grieving that).
i started out thinking about grief in life outside of work. more and more, though, i’m thinking about grief inside of and at work.
when i started to look for other folks who were talking about grief at work, all i found was stuff like this: Managing Grief and Loss At Work: A Guide for Employees & Managers. it’s about how to deal with people in a work context who are grieving things from outside of work. but what i’ve been thinking about is the grief of work itself.
sobonfu somé says that not releasing our grief is like wearing the same clothes over and over again without washing them or showering.
There is a price in not expressing one’s grief. Imagine if you never washed your clothes or showered. The toxins that your body produces just from everyday living would build up and get really stinky. That is how it is with emotional and spiritual toxins too.
that makes me think about grief as an energy that needs to be processed and let go. and it’s important to let go of that grief because it’s that grief that ties us to what was. and letting go of what was allows us to make space for what is and what is coming.
so in a work context what does that mean? well, first i’ll give some examples of what types of things could/should/need to be grieved by individuals and teams working together:
- the (traumatic or not) departure of a colleague
- a campaign defeat
- a failed initiative
- a drastic change of the context in which work was being done such that the work is no longer relevant
- a rejection of any sort (a paper being rejected from a journal, an op-ed being rejected from a newspaper, not making it to the next round of an job interview process)
why grieve those things? because, just like with a personal loss, grieving allows us to fully honor the thing we had and then open up space for what’s still there and what’s possible now. for example, when we sufficiently don’t grieve the loss of a lover, we hold the energy (intentionally or not) of that person in our life. that means there isn’t space for a future lover. i think the same is true with work things. if i don’t release the grief i feel when a colleague leaves our organization, i will constantly be comparing new colleagues to that colleague. “that’s not how [person] would’ve done it” and “dang, i wish [person] were here to [insert thing [person] always does].” that takes away from the energy of figuring out how to be together as a team now. it makes it hard to see how we could adapt our actual team now to what’s needed (and then figure out integrate new people into it).
grief at work. it’s important and we aren’t talking about it nearly enough (not that we’re talking about grief outside of work nearly enough either…).
words / writing / post-processing
497w / 13min / 17min