Her name was Kristen. As editor of Human Resources Executive magazine, she contacted me for an interview about employee grief two years ago. Her own story is startling and sad, yet I was moved by her courage to publish an article about a big problem.
Her story? She was covering an expo in Vegas when she got a call that changed her world: her husband died from a heart attack. In shock Kristen returned to her hotel, packed her bags, faced a sleepless night, grabbed a morning taxi, sat through security and then a 6-hour flight home in mind-numbing despair.
Because she had used up her FMLA leave caring for her father in hospice earlier that year, Kristen was left with the allotted 3 days of bereavement leave—the national standard.
Three days to plan a funeral. And attend.
Three days to mourn.
Three days to transition from two to one. No longer part of a pair.
Three days before returning to the demands of her job.
It just feels wrong. Yet employers don’t know what they don’t know.
But we can help them. Together we can educate and inspire change for a better way.
How? Ask questions. Share experiences. Talk strategies. What kind of bereavement leave does your employer offer? If you don’t know, they probably don’t either.
Thankfully, they’re starting to listen. I just received word that Glen Lord and I will be presenting Managing Grief in the Workplace at a second national conference this year, this one in Salt Lake City.
I know we face tremendous work ahead. But it’s a challenge worth fighting.
Because employees are people. People matter.
Together we can make change. And the world is starting to listen.
The other day I was asked why I advocate for the bereaved to give to others as a way to heal. In the midst of autopilot, brain fog, and feeling utterly depleted before even getting out of bed, most have nothing left to give.
So here’s my explanation on why giving is good for the giver.
When one suffers a broken leg, it takes time for the body to heal. The fracture will always be there because once done, it can’t be undone, but strengthening the muscles and tissue around the break will help protect from further damage and promote healing.
Just like physical therapy is to broken bones, giving while grieving is therapy for the broken heart. It releases powerful dopamine and endorphins—a natural high, which are like little happy pills for brain pain. It’s also good for our body by reducing common grief banes—stress, anxiety and insomnia.
Does giving cure grief? No. Losing someone we love causes grief that cannot be undone. It is something we learn to live with moving forward. But we can soothe the rawness and strengthen the areas around the wound—our broken heart—through activities and actions such as giving.
What can you give when you feel empty inside? Give blood. Give a smile. Give a genuine compliment. Give blessing bags to the homeless. Give a car room to merge during rush hour. Give time at a homeless shelter, which serves as a powerful reminder that we’re not alone on the struggle bus. Give a hug.
Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” In other words, helping others helps our own heart to heal. It truly does.
Today is the last of the 12 Nights of Kindness when we reveal our identity to the Naidu family. It wasn’t that long ago when we faced our first Christmas without our daughter Aly, and nothing soothed the rawness except acts of kindness from others. Fast forward 9 years later and I’ve learned that kindness remains a powerful balm—for my own heart.
Thank you for joining us each evening and watching our elves learn the joys of giving. I hope our 12 Nights inspired you to give kindness to someone because no matter how large or small, all it takes it one small act to make a big difference.
Tonight we’re joined by a seasoned elf, our youngest son Shaun, who just arrived home from college for the holidays. We started this tradition when he was 9. He’s now 23 and all grown up but young Elf Aubrey is doing a great job giving kindness to a family mourning the fresh loss of their loved one.
Night #2. Elf Aubrey is learning the joys of giving by giving joy to a family in mourning through the 12 Nights of Kindness. We went out a little early tonight due to a windstorm, but Aubrey is so brave and doing a wonderful job!
To start your own tradition of giving kindness, full instructions and free printables are available at www.LyndaFell.com.
Night #1 of the 12 Nights of Kindness, our tradition of teaching kids the joys of giving by giving joy to a neighbor who is missing someone they love.
This year we picked a family who lost a loved one just two months ago. Neighbor Bob died right in his driveway. I know our nightly gifts won’t cure the family’s sadness, but giving is good for both giver and receiver in that it lifts our own hearts to spread a little holiday cheer to someone in need. Learn how to start your own tradition including free instructions and printables at www.LyndaFell.com.
Hope for the Holidays Show, hosted by Lynda Cheldelin Fell and Todd Nigro, is a show for grievers to share tips and coping techniques for managing the holidays without our loved one. Learn more at www.LyndaFell.com.