#021 - BIGGER BUMPS in the ROAD - a profound loss, a life-changing, gut-wrenching jolt that literally stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away. Those bigger bumps can be devastating, even to the most resilient person. Join Dr. Charles Boyer for a discussion of ways to bounce back from those Bigger Bumps.
Hello, my friend, and welcome to Keys for New Leaders, a podcast for YOU, one who leads by serving others. Maybe I should say “Welcome Back” because it’s been awhile since the last episode. This is your host, Dr. Charles Boyer – Charlie to YOU, my friend. I’m so glad you’re here, and hope that this episode will be especially helpful to you during your leadership journey. Earlier, I was planning to talk about Imagineering, but due to more than a few hard bumps recently, I decided on a different topic. We’ll talk about Imagineering on a future episode.
This is Episode #21, and I call it “BIGGER BUMPS in the ROAD.” There’s a good reason for that. In Episode #15, we talked about those inevitable bumps, lumps, and bruises that go along with being a leader who serves others. And we talked about the importance of some ways to ease us over those bumps. When you have time, please re-listen to Episode #15, but for now, here’s a quick recap:
· When dealing with downturns and disappointments, it’s so important to maintain your resilience, the ability to withstand and work through adverse events and bounce back. Now, that definition makes it sound easy, yet it is never easy to work through tragedies and bounce back, but you CAN do it!
· And going along with resilience, pay close attention to your own self-care. Eat healthy foods. Get plenty of rest and exercise. Do something you enjoy. It’s so important to take good care of yourself, more especially during stressful times. Good self-care is not a luxury – it’s an absolute necessity.
· It’s also important to emphasize positivity in your life. Look for the good in any situation. Continue to believe that you can cope with whatever comes your way and that you can keep everything in perspective. “Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive” as the old song says. No “Negative Nellies or Eeyores” allowed!
· And practice mindfulness. Focus on an awareness of the present, what is taking place right now, not what has happened in the past or what might be ahead.
We talked about a few ways to help you believe in yourself, take care of yourself, deal with challenges, stay connected, and then at some point, you must move forward. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. It takes determination, commitment, practice. If you open a new jar of pickles, getting that first pickle out is the most difficult. So is taking that first step toward rebounding from a big bump in the road.
And then, just when things are going well again, there can be a much BIGGER BUMP in the ROAD – a profound loss, a life-changing, gut-wrenching jolt that literally stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away. It happens to everyone at some point in your life. It’s not a question of “IF,” it’s a matter of “WHEN.” It could be the loss of a loved one, loss of a dear pet, loss of job, loss of home, money or health. A major loss in your life. I’ll say it again – a life-changing, gut-wrenching jolt that literally stops you in your tracks and takes your breath away. I can truly speak from recent experience here.
Those bigger bumps can be devastating, even to the most resilient person. They can’t be ignored. Those bumps must be acknowledged and dealt with. When you embrace your feelings, acknowledge those bumps, and deal with them, you are showing strength. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings, and give yourself whatever time it takes for you to deal with your feelings of loss. My friend Deb wrote that dealing with feelings is likely what many struggle with most because we are not a culture that readily teaches us how to deal with feelings. The landmark book by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross discussed five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. There is not time to go into detail about each of these stages here. I encourage you to read the book to study her in-depth discussions. It is also important to note that there is no typical loss and no typical response to loss, and these five stages don’t always proceed neatly from one to the other in an orderly pattern.
So, what happens when you experience a profound loss? Well, let me say it again: everyone is different and every situation is different. Everyone reacts differently. There is no standard response. Some have described feeling adrift or directionless. Some have described feeling like you are caught in a net and the more you struggle to get loose the tighter the net becomes. Others have described feeling like you are hitting a wall. Yes, yes, and yes – all that and more. Give yourself permission to feel these feelings. These feelings are real, and it’s good to talk about them with someone you trust.
Everyone’s time frame is different, but eventually you’ll realize that you need to move on, not to forget your loss but to accept it and begin to move on. You can’t wallow in self-pity forever. The two worst excuses I’ve ever heard are “I don’t have a choice” and “There’s nothing I can do.” John Gardner calls those statements “mind-forged manacles,” barriers that you set up in your mind that can trap you and – if you let them – keep you prisoner.
Remember that net that you felt caught in? Well, imagine what could happen if you relax all your muscles rather than struggle. That net just might loosen enough for you to wiggle free. And that brick wall – can you go around it, over it, under it, through it? There is ALWAYS something you can do, and you ALWAYS have a choice!
So far, we’ve talked about what YOU can do to deal with YOUR loss, but what about the people you lead? When others have experienced a profound loss, what do they need from you? How can you best serve them? How can you be helpful and not hurtful?
There are many good books and articles available to help you deal with loss, the grieving process, what to say, how to help, and so on. A wonderful book that was recently recommended to me is “Understanding Your Grief” by Alan Wolfelt. I’m still reading and absorbing the book, yet I’ve found it very helpful already. One of the concepts Dr. Wolfelt describes is called “companioning.” It makes good sense to me. It’s about being present with the grieving person, not about trying to take away pain. It’s about walking alongside, not about leading. It’s about listening with your heart, not analyzing or being judgmental about the other person’s pain. And much more. It’s a book I highly recommend to you or someone you know who is grieving.
From personal experience, I believe that one of the most important things you can do is to LISTEN. As Dr. Wolfelt says, “listen with the heart.” Just be there and listen. You don’t need to DO anything. You don’t need to SAY anything. Just be there – fully present - with the grieving person and listen. You HONOR the other person when you give them your presence and your undivided attention and when you REALLY LISTEN. Listening – just being fully present and listening with your heart is a kindness you can give, and it’s a priceless gift.
Be especially careful with what you say. Many of us feel that we have to say something or offer to do something, and although it’s meant well, what you say can sometimes do more harm than good. When friends call, they often feel they have to say something to console you or offer advice or – worse yet – end up talking about their problems. Is that helpful? Hardly!
Let me share with you a personal and still painful example of what NOT to say. Many years ago, when my mother passed away, I needed to talk with someone and called our minister. His terse reply was something like “I’m sorry. Let’s have coffee sometime.” I felt like I had just been given the ultimate brush-off. I have never forgotten that rebuff. If you don’t remember anything else from this podcast, remember this: A kindness is always remembered. A hurt is never forgotten. (Repeat)
Having the resilience to withstand those bigger bumps isn’t easy. Don’t let anyone tell you it is, and don’t let anyone try to help you “get over it.” It’s hard, it hurts, and it stinks. But somehow, you must find the strength to go on. If you are serving another person, you must help them over the bumps carefully and gently.
Need some suggestions? Here are just a few of many things that you can do to help you or another person bounce back from those Bigger Bumps:
· Realize that your grief over a major loss is a journey, not a destination. You don’t “get over it,” you learn to accept the reality of it and then keep putting one foot in front of the other.
· Whatever you do, you must take good care of yourself. If that seems selfish, so be it. I saw one article that said: Put On Your Own Mask First. You must take care of YOU. It’s OK to be a little selfish when you’re stressed. Do something today that puts a smile on your face – just for YOU.
· Breathe. Take time to relax and breathe deeply. Meditate. Be still. Listen to soothing music. Practice letting go of tension, of worry, of your mind racing through a long list of to-dos. They can wait. YOU are more important.
· Get back on that horse. That old expression about what to do when you fall off a horse is just another way of reminding us to keep doing what we have enjoyed doing before the loss happened. Play tennis, play the kazoo, play cards, do a puzzle, read, paint – whatever it is that you have enjoyed doing, and do it again. And again.
· Count your blessings. Refuse to play the “poor me” and “ain’t it awful” games with others or by yourself. You have much to be thankful for. What are those things, events, people that are important in your life? Give thanks for them, and at some point, thank them directly. It helps!
Now for a disclaimer – Part of the reason for this podcast is to help me get back on that horse. I’ve experienced some of those bigger bumps over the past few years and more recently during the past several months, when I lost my beloved wife of 56 years to Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve been practicing many of these things that I’ve mentioned in this podcast, and they have helped me begin to rebound from some of those gut-wrenching jolts. I suggest them to you in hopes that they will help you or someone you serve as leader to survive the bigger bumps. I’m certainly no expert in how to deal with a profound loss, but I’m working at it every day, learning more about what helps and what doesn’t, and will continue on that journey during the days to follow. Safe travels to you on your leadership journey, my friend. And please remember: A kindness is always remembered. A hurt is never forgotten.
And now, it’s time for those three questions for you to think about and answer for yourself. As always, the questions toward the end of each episode are open-ended and non-judgmental. They are intended to help you think a bit more about how you might apply your answers to your own leadership journey. There are no right or wrong answers, just YOUR answers, the ones that are right for YOU.
1. Which of your strengths do you find that you call on the most to help you through a stressful time?
2. When you have experienced a bigger bump in your life, what are three ways you have found resilience?
3. What is one takeaway from this episode that has resonated with you the most?
And the special key for this episode? Well, it just has to be the Key of B – for B resilient, B good to yourself, and B kind!
Thank you for listening. Next time, we’ll focus on the creative energy that is IMAGINEERING. I’m looking forward to your joining me for that episode. Until then, stay safe and well, my friend, and remember those Three Bs –B resilient, B good to yourself, and B kind.