We began the year of 2017 with the sad news of the second untimely death of another of our much loved young staff members. Telling the organisation about his death was my first duty of 2017 and it quickly put things into perspective. It also made me realise the power of the workplace community and how it can scaffold and support during miserable times.
The first indicator of support was the ability of staff to talk openly and kindly to each other about death and their personal responses to it, raising very deep feelings, bringing up memories, focusing people on the transitory nature of time and making us think about our own mortality. I take an Irish approach to death which is to grieve in whatever way feels right but most importantly to celebrate that the person lived and contributed something to your life. In essence, don’t be reluctant to say their name, remember them openly and describe how they touched your life.
In 2016 lots of the people who touched my life, however tentatively, died. David Bowie was my first teenage fascination, Alan Rickman had a voice that made me think of Christmas, Terry Wogan, reminded me of hilarious evenings listening to his commentary about the Eurovision, Ronnie Corbett from the Two Ronnies and Victoria Wood, great favourites in our house and the doleful tones of Leonard Cohen kept me company from my late teens. Last year I also lost my lovely friend Dave Perry who died suddenly leaving me very distressed and mournful.
This year, we cannot predict who will die and leave us bereft but we do know it will happen to someone. I have been listening to many TED talks on death and grief and the message is consistent, talking and sharing is the healthiest way of dealing with the unbearable. 2017 must therefore start with a strong intention and every effort to build as much resilience and kindness in the organisation as possible so we can be the sort of community that can help each other as we face grief.