Challenges, Empowering Women, Family, Grief, Leadership, Work/Life Balance, Working Women

Managing Grief. Managing Life. Managing a Career. 

It is extremely difficult (more so than I ever imagined) to manage through the grief journey. I have also become quickly attune to the common misconceptions associated with grieving. Let’s begin with the notion that grieving is a “process” and somehow eventually you reach an “end point” of grief. What I have come to experience is that grief changes you and the process is lifelong. There is no end point. There is no “finish line” to reach.  

Another very common misconception is that there are defined “chronological stages” of grief that one goes through (denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance) – clearly not the case. You fluctuate through them constantly. Just because you’ve gone through one, doesn’t mean you won’t revisit it. It is not predictable nor orderly. Grief is not linear – it is more like a jungle gym. You can revisit one or they can all come and revisit you all at once. There are days of great strength and perseverance. Life cooperates. Accomplishments happen. However just as quickly there are days of great struggle. Getting up and going is a challenge. Putting together a sentence is difficult. Maintaining focus at work is non-existent.

Grief and the process of grieving is unique to each person. You cannot fit grief into a neat little box. Nor can you expect someone to be somewhere in their grief journey. Expectations have no place in grief.

One does not “get over” grief. You do not resolve or recover from grief. You are forever changed by grief, learning how to reconcile grief and integrate this new reality. While the rest of the world moves on and goes about their life (whether it is business life or personal life) the grieving person needs to figure out how to manage in a new normal that they weren’t ready for, weren’t prepared for, in an often unwanted situation. We simply just don’t want to have to figure this out – it’s hard, it hurts, and it is exhausting!

Today, this is my life. It is a process, not an event. Grief and grieving affects every single aspect of my life. I can manage my personal life in a compartmentalized fashion – I have experienced many tragedies and challenges in life. I can manage through visiting family or making decisions around family functions. I have an amazing system of support (my family) and they get it, they get me. I can manage through the details of life – day-to-day activities – on my own terms and in my own way. Even if it means crying in the cookie aisle at the grocery store (yes, it’s happened).

But managing grief and grieving while trying to lead and operate in the workplace requires managing through a very different set of challenges. Meetings, conferences, conference calls, speaking engagements, getting up and going to work, driving home from work …… they all present unique challenges. I have been in meetings where my mind wanders and I think about my husband. I have had to leave meetings (not many, but a few) because I have experienced overwhelming emotion and sadness. I limit the amount of social hour and networking events I attend that have an open bar. Let’s just say alcohol and grief don’t particularly go well together! I also am fully aware that social hours can present awkward moments of conversation. I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable.

I try to tell myself I am doing the best I can, I believe that to be true. It is fascinating to me though that as the world continues on and picks up where my “life” left off, I am many times trying to keep pace, trying to determine what I do next. Patience, kindness, and caring – things I am trying to practice for myself and others as I continue on this journey.

Empowering Women

Lessons in Leadership

When I think back to the day of the service held for Mark, I continue to be in awe of the people who came to pay respects who worked with Mark over the many years of his career. What resonated with me was the genuine moments of human connection Mark had with the people he worked with, the people he worked for, and the people who worked for him. Many tears were shed and kind words and stories shared about a man who was a true people leader.
Mark was the epitome of people leadership and that was his primary focus – and as such, the business P&L grew and he made turnaround markets a true success. Behind all of that were the stories of people he gave a chance to and people who he believed in for growing career roles. He took the time to coach, mentor, and connect with people – everyday.

Mark served in a capacity as my coach, confidant, and mentor to help me work through business and leadership challenges. I miss his perspective. He always had a unique way of framing a situation for me to help me broaden my view and consider an alternative point of view. I trusted him with my leadership challenges to guide me.

I think what is also most interesting is that when we wrote Mark’s obituary we never once shared any of his career. We simply shared who he was as a man – a father, a husband, a brother, a son. Mark was a genuinely kind and caring person. He held fast onto what is right and what is wrong – his values never wavered. This is what made him such a marvelous leader.

Lessons in leadership come in many ways and experiences. Sometimes if you are lucky enough you can experience leadership in your home, with your partner, and learn those lessons every day.

 

Empowering Women

Honoring Acceptance, Gratitude, and Strength

Today I returned from a much needed vacation. Time in the sun and at the beach always recharges my battery. Post vacation I typically feel reconnected and ready to embrace the challenges before me. This vacation was different. In so many ways.My husband and I had planned a trip to Bermuda for our anniversary – October 5th we would have celebrated 31 years married. We love the ocean. We love Bermuda. It has always been a place for us to celebrate and refresh/recharge.

I could have cancelled the trip but I knew that my anniversary was going to be one of the “firsts” since Mark died. I also knew that I needed to honor my husband, honor my marriage, and this was the last “anniversary trip” we planned together. I would never have another. It seemed right. One way or another I would need to address my wedding anniversary – the feelings, the sadness, and the heavy weight on my heart.

With grace and dignity, I went to Bermuda to celebrate my 31st wedding anniversary. I honored my husband and I honored my marriage. I spread some of his ashes at the ocean as he would have wanted and shared with the universe how blessed I was to have been his wife, his partner in all things, and his friend.

I was able to get to a place of acceptance that this is my new normal. This doesn’t mean I am not heartbroken – it is simple acceptance. I am also filled with gratitude – I had 30 years and 10 months of a wonderful loving marriage to my best friend. I know how unique this is and I am grateful for the life I had with Mark.

I left Bermuda rested, relaxed, and in a place of acceptance of what is and what is not. I am grateful for my life – what was and what is to be. I have a wonderful family that began on the foundation of a wonderful life with a wonderful man. I have an amazing career. I have a better perspective today on what matters.

I am stronger today and I honor that strength.