January had me thinking a lot about grief. And how grief can also be a measure for the depths of our human connection. And how our human connection drives our happiness and success.
Last month was the 21st birthday of Martha and Annie, my “nieces next door.” But there was only Annie to celebrate, as we approached the one year anniversary of Martha’s death. (Read my piece on “Living Your Legacy” here.)
It was also the month that marked what would’ve been my dad’s 72nd birthday. He’s been gone nearly 12 years and got to live a very full life before his death. And yet, memories and grief often snowball together and so I felt his loss anew.
As someone who has spent my whole life curious about people, I’ve found myself contemplating how the loss of people we love shapes us.
And while I won’t go down the philosophical rabbit hole, and I’m not a grief expert, there is one thing that feels very clear to me.
The depth of our grief often correlates to the depth of our connection.
For years, I’ve posited that “Your personal happiness and professional success are directly related to the quality of your relationships.”
I write, speak, coach, and train on this concept regularly. I stand by the belief in the importance of human connection (as does much research) for happiness, wellbeing, and success.
And while the pain of losing someone you love is real, profound (and terrible), it’s also a reflection of how much you loved them – how connected you were to them that you could miss them so deeply.
The end of my dad’s life reinforced my belief in the beauty and power of human connection.
For five months he’d courageously dealt with sudden paralysis, adjusting to life in a wheelchair. He watched as his brilliant mind slipped in and out of reality. He confronted, and ultimately gracefully embraced, the rare diagnosis that would end his life. And through the most intense time of his life, he reached out to everyone who’d impacted him over the years. He wrote raw and honest letters that drew people to him, instead of hiding in his own fear and sadness.
In response, there was a parade of notes and visits. I watched and listened as countless people held his hand and retold their memories with my dad. I read letter upon letter written to him in profound gratitude for the contributions he’d made to their lives.
I was blown away by the depth of connections my dad had created in his lifetime.
On that afternoon in June, he could no longer speak. A man who’d spent his life teaching and training all over the world was unable to talk. He was at the end, but his connections and relationships continued on.
- How are you treating the people in your life?
- Are you giving your relationships, both professional and personal, the attention and care they deserve?
- And what would be different for you (and your loved ones and colleagues) if you did?
As always, I really appreciate each of you (and your CURIOSITY that keeps you in this conversation with me!). Please pass this along to anyone who may be grieving or looking for a silver lining in a hard time.
And if you missed last month’s piece on “The Cure for Being ‘Too’ Much OR ‘Too’ Quiet”, check it out here.
I’m sending you courage, connection, and curiosity.
P.S. I have some awesome work scheduled for the year ahead. If you (or your organization) are interested, here are 3 ways that I can help. Please email me with any inquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Keynote speaking on campuses, conferences, and companies.
- Leadership coaching that supports you in leveraging your strengths and building your capacity.
- Team training and development that builds trust and connection, leveraging Emotional Intelligence.