By Anne Harbison
Last spring my 17-year old daughter, Hanna Rose, and I ran in the Disney Princess 10K. So much was special about the trip – running in tutus and tiaras, fulfilling a dream of hers, having a mother-daughter senior year experience. We were also raising money for the Ronald McDonald House where we stayed when Ben died; the place where Hanna Rose had her 14th birthday the next day. To take something that represented the worst nightmare of our lives and turn it literally into a victory run is one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
But here is another side of the victory run story…and maybe the most profound moment for me of the entire weekend.
At every mile marker they would have a Disney character cheering you on, and tons of runners would stop to take pictures. I passed the mile 1 and 2 characters because I knew if I stopped I would have a hard time getting back into the groove. And then, at the 3 mile mark (half way through the race), the characters...
When someone we love is in pain, we long to relieve their suffering. We have an impulse to jump in, fix the problem, cheer them up, get enraged over the injustice they’ve experienced, or offer up “everything happens for a reason” platitudes.
I can tell you as someone who has experienced deep grief that I understand, and am even grateful for these responses. The other person is vicariously experiencing the pain of my loss, and like me, feels helpless over their inability to make it go away. Like the person suffering, they want nothing more than for life to go back to what once was.
I can also tell you from experience that these responses are not ultimately helpful, even though they are well intentioned. After our son died we were showered with gracious care and support. But every now and then, the intensity of someone's attempt to make me feel better actually shut me down, and in a few cases caused resentment. Several times I felt like I was comforting...
There’s a saying when you’ve lost someone very close to you that the second year is worst that the first. After we lost our son, that sounded like a cruel joke. How could anything be worse than the devastating pain we were living during that year of “firsts” without Ben - the first birthday, holiday, plane ride, school pick up, hockey game, etc.?
I’m not sure that “worse” captures what I experienced, but the pain of year two (and the years since then) definitely shifted. I was in a constant state of disbelief in the first year. Even months after his death I’d be going about my day and in an instant it would hit me, as if for the first time, that he was gone. It felt like a cosmic punch in the stomach. I would actually feel dizzy over an inability to compute what had happened. I now know how common, and even necessary, that disbelieving shock is. At some level we simply cannot bear the new reality, so our minds shut down to give our...
I’ve learned a lot about grief in the past five years. Certainly through my direct experience of mourning of our son’s death, but also through being in community with others grappling with profound loss. Like many searching for solid ground after a crisis, I reached out to counselors, wisdom literature, experts in death and dying, and my community of faith. Although these external resources were vast and valuable, it is the simple insights that guided the day-to-day rebuilding of my life that I want to share with you.
The insights offer don't only apply to tragedy - they relate to navigating loss of any kind, in any type of life crisis. The best definition of grief I’ve heard is from my friend and mentor, John Ross. He explains that we grieve whenever a relationship ends and we weren’t ready to say goodbye. That may mean losing a family member, friend or pet; it could mean the ending of a friendship, romantic relationship or job. Grief can occur...
Post-ponements, rain checks, cancelations. Our lives are full of them. A birthday celebration, or actual birth, you were not able to attend. A graduation ceremony or wedding postponed. A family vacation or work event cancelled. There is not a human on the planet whose daily routines, and major life events, have not been turned upside down.
The ancient Greeks had two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos was associated with actual “clock” time - measurable, consistent segments of time passing. Chronos is the time of day planners, project management deadlines, birthdays and anniversaries recorded on our calendars. Chronos time is the number of days you’ve been home-bound. The number of days your child has been home from school. The number of days that you haven’t been to the hair stylist, gym or coffee shop.
Kairos, on the other head, referred to the meaning of any moment in time. Kairos (the Greek god of Opportunity) reflected the...
When a part of life that has given us joy is shut down, we’re not just grieving that thing (e.g. the job, relationship, health, the ability to have coffee with friends); it’s the energy and emotion that resulted from that activity that we crave. Of course we all miss the freedom of mobility during a stay-at-home order, but I bet that we each have a very specific “miss” list based on what makes us thrive in more normal times.
Our inner talents, ambitions, and hopes have a way of finding a path when the one in front of us is shut down. I had a client who loved managing others, and when moved to a job where he didn’t have direct reports, ended up coaching little league baseball. He had a fundamental desire to invest in the growth of others; when his “day job” didn’t give him that daily opportunity, he found other avenues to direct his natural talent.
Is there a part of you that is feeling restless? That unsettled feeling...
I’ve gotten pretty lax with television time in our house during this stay-at-home period. My kids are watching a LOT of Disney (giving me some time for Netflix binges). Frozen’s Let It Go has been on a replay loop in my head for years. Now “The Next Right Thing” from Frozen II is playing right along beside it. If you have to have an ear worm, these empowerment ballads are pretty great.
Yesterday I encouraged you to purposely toggle between the big picture and the immediate need (zoom out, zoom in). Taking the next step without a broader frame of reference (and meaning) can lead you unconsciously down a path you never meant to travel. You may be moving forward, but is it the right direction at the right time for the right purpose? Is the decision, action, conversation you’re having today actually the next right thing?
It’s especially hard to discern the next right thing when that “ zoom-out" horizon...
Gallup research shows that our primary need during times of turmoil and crisis is stability. In times of uncertainty, we long to know what is still true, what is expected of us, on what and whom can we rely. In the context of the Covid-19 crisis, when what we do not know is overwhelming, reaffirming what has not changed will continue to be a touchstone of sanity and comfort. If there was ever a time for gratitude for what we do have, it is now.
It has become clear that we are experiencing a global inflection point. Across continents, across cultures, time will be delineated by BC (before Covid-19) and AC (after Covid-19). As the profound scope of this pandemic is unfolding, we all need to strengthen our emotional muscles for tolerating ambiguity and complexity.
So here are two critical questions:
1) What was your relationship with “not knowing” before Covid-19 (BC)?
In more normal, predictable times, have you been someone who...
Once a leader asked me to serve on a volunteer committee, and my immediate response was “Hell No!” I was already overcommitted with work and family and knew with absolute certainty that I couldn’t handle anything else on my plate. The leader laughed and said, “Well, I’d rather have a ‘hell no’ than a ‘maybe yes’.”
This week I’d like for you to look out for parts of your life where you are a ‘maybe yes.’ These may be obligations that grew out of scope-creep in your job; a volunteer position you said yes to out of guilt; a project that you thought would be no big deal but is now sucking up your time an energy.
A ‘Maybe yes’ dilutes your energy, time and leadership brand. Time spent in these areas typically yields mediocre outcomes while sacrificing focus you could be dedicating to activities that are truly important to you.
As you go through your week, pay attention to...
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