Volume 43, October 2004: Loss

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

This is a monthly electronic magazine for anyone who wants to be a better leader, coach, facilitator, or simply, to tune up their people skills. It is a complimentary publication, devoted to the next evolution of Quality Thinking.

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2004 ISSN # 1545-8873

“To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal …
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn and a time to dance …
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to reap and a time to sow;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.” — Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

“What is remembered in all our work is what is still alive in the hearts and minds of others.” — David Whyte

“Grief is the obverse of happiness. They are two sides of a single coin, and only the vulnerable know either.” — Irving Townsend


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Recognizing that beginnings and endings are part of life and therefore, work.
  • Respecting individuals’ needs to process loss – whether a job, a place, a loved one, or the era of the organization.
  • Creating ceremony and ritual at life’s darkest, as well as its brightest, moments.
  • Allowing emotion its place at work.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Let’s face it: we don’t do well with loss – whether disaster, demise or death. The easiest thing is to turn away from it. Or to do the safe thing – send flowers, a card, donate, fly the flag at half mast. Three days of consolation and bereavement, then back on the job. Leaders are missing an important opportunity to coalesce their community. Meaningful rituals create collective remembrance, and allow healing to take place. Unless comings and goings are marked with ceremony, organizations will become fragmented and empty. People will not be able to latch on or let go, haunted by departed ghosts and fearful of what will happen next. Help people move on.

Frequently Asked Questions

“I have never felt very good about the way we manage involuntary exits, whether through downsizing, firing, demotion, or urged resignation. Any suggestions?”
In general, corporate entities do not see these as warranting ceremonial recognition. Yet many of these lost employees have invested years of productivity in a career full of promise, just to have their dreams come to an abrupt end. Some ritual of transition confers dignity upon the departing person, and also provides comfort and closure to those who remain. One such event fell after a forced separation of a man who mentored many aspiring leaders in the organization. Despite management’s objection to a ceremony, the loyal followers planned a secret parting event. As he packed his things, they stood in the foyer with food and flowers; when he arrived, they toasted his memories and told stories about his influence. When he turned to leave, all he mentored stood on either side of his path to the parking lot, hugged him or shook his hand, then turned to plant an evergreen tree – a living tribute.
“Can you suggest formats for rituals of loss?”
There are common elements to good ceremonies I have witnessed. Often a circle of friends gather in a sacred space. There is a sharing of stories, memories, food and drink. Symbols, props, memorabilia codify the past. Music is often an element. Sometimes there is stylized movement: a progression, a standing, an act through symbols. For example, setting butterflies free at a Cancer Survivors Day. Or burning policies from the past in a tribute to a new organizational future. There is a planned agenda, but also room for spontaneity and emotion.
“How can I be helpful to others experiencing loss?”
  • Seek out the person and communicate your concern for them.
  • Be available to listen.
  • Provide practical help. Think of a concrete way to assist and do it.
  • Avoid making judgments and telling a person how they should be feeling.
  • Be willing to dialogue about life and death.
  • Reaffirm the value in your relationship with them.
  • Be patient with the cyclical nature of the grief process – it can come and go for no apparent reason.

Understand there is no fixed time in which the bereavement process is to be over. Unprocessed grief has been known to be passed down 2 to 12 generations. Depression of a person, a business, an economy often brings into clear light what is valuable. Help people notice this.

“How can some employees be asking for bereavement leave over pet loss!”
If you do a Google search on “Loss,” after Weight and Hair Loss in frequency, comes Pet Loss citations – all more prominent than Human Loss. Even Miscarriages hold a leading place. What about suicides then? Who are we to dictate the meaning of what has been loved and lost by others?


Assistance with designing corporate ritual and ceremony.

Help with reactions to terrorism and major disasters.

What is grief and how to help: Counseling Center at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Coping with loss, bereavement, and grief: Mental Health America.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

World prayers.

Help employees cope with loss: Grief and Loss.

Grief support: poems, articles, memoirs: Grief Loss and Recovery.


Books are linked to Amazon.com descriptions.


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