Grieving and Loss

Sections of this topic

    Last week I wrote about healing and reconciliation. Though I hadn’t planned to write a follow-up blog, life had other plans. On Mon. my 16 year old cat died unexpectedly and it’s been a shock and loss. I’ve often thought that in our American culture grieving is highly under-rated. Other cultures understand the importance of allowing time to grieve, to move intentionally and mindfully through the range of emotions – sadness, anger, shock, turbulence, confusion etc.

    It’s been said that we die a thousand little deaths throughout our life. In the workplace there are many ways people experience a death. While the obvious death we think of is when someone loses a job, there are other ways that death and grieving may be occurring in your workplace. Maybe your job or role has changed or you have been moved into an entirely different department. You may have experienced a death or ending with a favorite co-worker who has left, retired or let go. Your whole company may have merged or been bought by another company so your company as it was no longer exists. You or someone you know may own a company only to sell it or close it due to financial circumstances.

    Others of you may have experienced a large project ending so your team has disbanded. The stages of a team involve forming, storming, norming and performing. Yet there is another stage that doesn’t get as much attention- mourning. Have you taken time as a team to acknowledge that the group that once was no longer exists? That may be a source of celebration and joy, but it may also involve some loss, sadness or uncertainty.

    If you or someone you know has experienced any of these situations, mourning may be occurring, consciously or not. Give yourself permission to grieve. Find a time to acknowledge an ending and the resulting feelings that may emerge. Those feelings may come up in unexpected ways. Honor them as they emerge. Greet the sadness, confusion, anger as a friend- ‘Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again’…. That darkness or sadness is there as a reminder that someone or something was important to you. There is meaning underneath that sadness, it shows you that what once was in your life was precious and you cared about him/her/it. Better to acknowledge the underlying feelings than to stuff it or push it aside.

    Once you’ve claimed and honored what you are feeling, you can let it go in the time and manner that works for you. Find some way to honor what was and say goodbye to it. Create whatever ritual or ceremony works for you to acknowledge all the feelings you have as you step through this time to face a new way of working.

    Last week I attended the Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra ritual in Washington DC. As part of that ceremony the monks created a beautiful, intricate sand mandala. I love the teachings of sand mandalas. Monks meticulously create a gorgeous piece of artwork over the course of several days. Then to symbolize the impermanence of life, at the end of their ceremonies, they sweep the sand into an urn and put it in a body of water. Life on the physical plane is finite and fragile. In the sweep of a brush, our life, our loved ones, the things that we hold dearly are gone. While we stay attached to the memories, the tangible physical form is gone, changed, transmuted to some other state.

    The mandala, now gone from view, remains forever in the memory of all who entered its perfect realm. Though the philosophy of the Kalachakra is at the highest level of Buddhism anyone can use it at any time. This philosophy urges us to reach a splendid, pure inner world while still living in our imperfect, earthly one, using Kalachakra as a model. For example, a pure body comes from healthy eating and not smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs. Pure speech means not gossiping or saying unkind things about others. A pure mind is trained away from angry, hateful and selfish thoughts. Once each of us purifies our body, speech and mind, we can find inner peace. (from

    Kalachakra sand mandala

    Your life is filled with beginnings and endings. Samsara, the flow of life- birth, death, and re-birth- continues on. May your beginnings and endings be filled with grace, peace, and beauty.


    For more resources, see our Library topic Spirituality in the Workplace.


    Linda is an author, speaker, coach, and consultant. Go to her website to read more about her work, view video clips of her talks, and find out more about her book “Path for Greatness: Spirituality at Work” available on Amazon. Now available in pdf form from her website, Linda’s new book, “Staying Grounded in Shifting Sand