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GUEST BLOG: ELLEN O'HARA ON LOSS AND GRIEF

*We had a great chat with Ellen recently and we're really interested to explore further around organisational grief. Thanks Ellen for including us in this lovely piece.*


You can find the original piece here: https://medium.com/@ellen_78906/on-loss-and-grief-f15d46537ac

I have a lot of questions at the moment. One of the reoccurring themes has been around how we might balance the need to do some futures thinking with the very present need to grieve and acknowledge loss. Both personally and as organisations and communities. To help me in my thinking, I put the question out to twitter:

“I’m looking for some reading on how we can grieve as organisations, how we might apply ritual and ceremony to help let go and move forward, and how we might invite our communities and audience to share in this experience with us. Bit of a grim topic but it feels important”

I received some very generous responses, which I’ve attempted to summarise here. To be honest, I’ve struggled to process information lately, so inspired by Emmie Kell, I had a go at creating some sketchnotes to help me download and clarify.



They are still more ‘notes’ than ‘sketch’, but it did help me distill a few key ideas:

Importance of acknowledgement

Loss is occurring and felt on multiple levels all at once. The sense of loss is both anticipated and actual. Both being very real. The need to acknowledge and understand the emotional needs of ourselves, our teams, the communities we serve, the artists we collaborate with is essential. In her beautiful blog post, Stella Duffy reminds is that If we fail to acknowledge the small losses, they are likely to accumulate and come back to bite us.” - But do we have the language and tools do this this? - How might we do this individually and collectively? I had a lovely conversation yesterday with Carly Attridge from The Loss Project about these questions and what collective and creative responses to loss and memorialisation might look like. They are working on a variety of ways to encourage a community response to the loss that we are feeling collectively and as individuals — their current campaign #thatsexactlyhowIfeel is a great place to start.

Continuing bonds over moving on

In my original question I’d talked about moving on. But Natasha Boardman- Steer helped me reframe the question with the idea of continuing bonds. We need time and space to reflect, talk, share, remember, listen……..I still have more questions than answers at the moment, but I’m thinking about:

- How and where we might hold the space for grief and mourning? - What’s the role of sharing stories and creating artefacts for remembrance and memorial? - What can we learn from those that are creating new interpretations of traditional funeral ceremonies?

Finding meaning I was familiar with the Five Stages of Grief model, but the sixth phase that David Kessler has added was new to me — finding Meaning beyond acceptance. This really resonated with me. And of course raised more questions:

- How can these experiences help us understanding things differently? - How can we capture the learning and growth from this crisis personally and collectively? - What can we usefully take forward with us?

I’m looking forward to continuing these conversations and would love to hear from anyone else who is thinking about loss and grief.

Here are some of the brilliant links shared through the twitter thread:

Articles and online resources:

The Loss Project, social enterprise led by Carly Attridge with the mission to generate a community response to loss which challenges the stigma and taboo, cuts through the barriers of having difficult conversations and subjects that can often remain unspoken, whilst providing opportunities for people to connect through their experiences and build capacity to be able to support each other.

Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort and Closure During an Outbreak, an article published by NPR, which describes how a Congolese psychologist and the Bethesda Counselling Centre are helping families who lost loved ones to Ebola to find solace and closure through alternative burial rituals, suggested by Natasha Boardman-Steer

The Farewell Fund, a design enquiry led by Cassie Robinson for a Farewell Fund asking the questions “how do we close organisations down in a responsible, kind and intelligent way? And what would a dedicated Fund look like for resourcing it?

The Order of Good Death, US based resource with a mission to foster a culture with a more open, honest engagement with death and a better funeral industry, where the family could be involved with the process, suggested by Natasha Boardman-Steer

Five Stages of Grief article published by Very Well Mind, suggested by Gillian Easson

Acknowledging Small Losses, a beautiful and personal blog post by Stella Duffy

That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief article published in the HBR, suggested by Clare Taylor & Laura Wilkson

Books: Passages of the Soul by James Roose-Evans, suggested by Annie Warbarton “an early, pioneering work by a leading theatre director on the power and need for ritual.”

The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller, suggested by Lori Stafford “Every sentence sings with profound empathy. Weller provides other resources, too.”

On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler

Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler


WRITTEN BY Ellen O'Hara Enterprise coach helping artists, create and social entrepreneurs and arts orgs make and build things they care about, with impact.

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