Importance of Ritual

Although our world is quite unsettled these days and many of us are
running as fast as we can there is nothing like death to cause us to stop
and take notice. In our family tradition everything that was important fades
into the background and celebrating the life of the departed with family and
friends takes precedence. Nothing has to be said or communicated it just

We got word Friday that Mike, my husbands brother had died. Although he
had a very serious heart condition and was on the waiting list for a
transplant many of us thought it would happen and he would be well. It
didn’t turn out that way. So here we are in Erie, PA for a memorial
gathering. Each of us deals with death differently, and we are certainly
experiencing the differences. At one extreme the businesses and at the
other wanting to be with loved ones to remember and celebrate.

It’s got me to thinking about the importance of having a ritual whether a
viewing, service, official gathering or memorial. Ritual is a punctuation
point a time to come together and be. Some will be brought to tears.
Others will raise their glasses in a toast to the departed. Whatever, the
most important aspect is to be in touch with your emotions. Grief is an
important dimension of living. Much has been written about the grieving
process (Kubler-Ross and Becker are two writers worth reading on the
subject). Most importantly it should not be denied, but rather recognized
for what it unfolding of emotions, feelings, memories and even
unfinished business with the loved one, the “if only I had...” conversation.

You might wonder what this has to do with management. It is important,
perhaps even essential for managers to be made aware of the death of a
loved one. If grief is denied, or swept under the rug it can affect one’s
performance on the job. Anger, frustration, depression and lethargy can set in. I am not recommending managers become grief counselors.
Rather what I am saying is it is important to acknowledge the loss, and
encourage the person to attend whatever service or honoring activity is
planned. Even if it is out of town. You may also suggest the person have a
conversation with you the manager and/or with co-workers to celebrate the
loved ones life. Sometimes a pat on the back, a hug or even a sympathy
card goes a long way to ease the grief a person is experiencing. I recently
had an independent contractor come to my office who had missed a
previously scheduled meeting. I commented and asked what happened. I
was informed her grandmother had died and the funeral was in another
country. She was unable to attend. I saw the tears in her eyes and
opened my arm and said “I think you need a hug.” She sobbed in my arms
as waves of grief traversed her body. After a few moments we shifted and
focussed on the work. I knew she appreciated the acknowledgement and
my comforting words. I also felt a deep humanity for her pain and
remembered my own grandmother’s death. Such a simple thing, a smile,
touch and hug. Our work got done together in a speedy fashion.

Many of our places of business have become void of compassion and
empathy. That is not a good thing for the person or the company. After all
we are human and part of the human condition is grief. We must learn to
be there for one another. To honor our different grieving rituals, perhaps
even help create new ones. Sharing our compassion is essential in times
of grief.