Grief is only about Death. We see that in organisations, when change occurs, how people handle change resembles how they deal with grief and loss. We lose something whenever things change. We must accept an ending and a new beginning, and there are no absolute norms; grief is a unique experience for everyone. Helping your team overcome grief is, first and foremost, a matter of listening and empathy. But it also means knowing they will go through five unavoidable stages: shock, refusal, anger, depression and acceptance.
Meet people where they are and not where you want them to be
Four emotional positions
1) Shock and denial phase this stage may last a few minutes, days or weeks. During this phase, the person has difficulty believing or denying reality and may be unable to react.
2) Protest phase this stage may last a few weeks or months. During this phase, the person may experience anger, incomprehension, a feeling of injustice, guilt varying degrees, and a search for a culprit and a meaning to the loss.
3) Disorganisation phase this stage may last a few weeks or months. The person may feel very sad, anxious and helpless. They may also withdraw themselves and lose interest in their usual activities.
4) Reorganisation and adaptation phase this stage can last from a few months to a few years. After that, the person is less overwhelmed by the loss and gradually regains the ability to have fun.
As a people manager, it is vital to remember four things.
- Grief reactions must be shared. This helps people process emotions and navigate them to acceptance.
- There is anticipatory grief. People can grieve what has not happened.
- Meet people where they are rather than where you want them to be. Everyone goes through a grieving process differently. Be patient and be compassionate with yourself first and then others.
- Intensify your position as a role model and help people see it.
An exercise that can help you feel better in the denial phase is to take a pencil and paper. Just let it out. This letter is entirely confidential. If you feel like saying the worst things you fear, go ahead.