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How To Deal With The Death Of A Loved One

How To Deal With The Death Of A Loved One

Experiencing the death of a loved one is extremely personal.  Each one of us responds differently to loss.  There are so many variables when it comes to losing someone we love.  There are many different factors that will contribute to your feelings: what your loss is, how the loss happened (whether sudden or expected), the age of the person that was lost (young lives that had so much potential as compared to a life of someone who has lived a long, meaningful life), and the depth of the relationship. The bottom line is that no matter what kind of loss you are dealing with, you will be left to manage your own grief.

Grieving is a tremendously personal journey.  There are no right and wrong ways to deal with grief.  I have recently suffered a tremendous loss in my own life, so allow me to share with you parts of my journey in hopes of helping you in yours.

A peek into my journey

I lost my cousin, who was also my best friend and like a sister to me, to cancer last year.  I don’t remember a time when she wasn’t part of my life.  We grew up together, went to school together, got married around the same time, and had our children close together.  She was always a part of my everyday life–whether that meant birthdays and celebrations, funerals and sorrow, promotions and joy, she was there.

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Losing her has been one of the most difficult things I have ever experienced.  Even though her death was expected, I didn’t know the emotions I would feel until the time came. I had been part of her journey with cancer. I even shaved my head when she lost her hair, just to relate to some of what she was going through.

I often think of the day she got the terminal diagnosis. I stayed overnight with her in the hospital. We had a pajama party.  We laughed, we cried, we hugged, ate snacks from the vending machine on her hospital bed, and we talked and talked.  We talked about times we shared and the future that we wouldn’t.  She encouraged me to make my life count. She has inspired me to move out of my comfort zone and to follow my dream. There were times during her hospital stay for chemo treatments that we would video chat, and I would be there with her through the distance while she fell asleep.

After her death, I was at a loss of what to feel. Sometimes I cried a lot; other times, I couldn’t cry. The main thing that I learned was to allow myself to feel whatever it was that I felt.  It does no good to push the feelings under. It is healthy to go through each step of your grieving process.  I remember watching a TV show one night, and I started sobbing because it reminded me of her.  My husband, who was so supportive during my loss, asked me what he could do to help me.  All I wanted was my favorite picture of her.  I sat and held the picture, touching her face, and cried. As time goes by, I find I am able to feel her through the things I do. Pieces of her memory are scattered throughout my life, and they bring me comfort.

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Give yourself permission to grieve.

This may sound strange, however, it really is important that you allow yourself to feel the things you feel.  Everyone has their own reactions to loss.  Some people want to talk about the deceased member, while others are more reserved and are uncomfortable speaking of the loved one who has gone.

This is your journey; not anyone else.  Do what comes naturally for you.  If you want to display photos and have a special area of remembrance for your loved one, then do it. Depending on how you like to express yourself, Facebook sometimes can be a great way to say what’s on your mind.  There are times when I will go to my loved one’s page and just write her a message.  Although I realize she isn’t actually reading it, somehow, to me, it feels like a connection to her.

Grief comes in waves.  Sometimes, at unexpected moments, you will see, hear, or smell something that reminds you of the person and tears begin to flow involuntarily.  I remember one day, I was at my desk and a visitor came by and she was wearing a fragrance that reminded me of my cousin; without warning tears just slid down my cheeks. Of course, moments like this are overwhelming and a bit embarrassing, but if you just explain that you have recently lost a loved one, most people understand. It is important to allow these things to happen.  Don’t fight your feelings.  Don’t be afraid to let them out. It is a form of healing for you.

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Find Support

There are grief counseling places that specialize in the grieving process. These may be helpful for you. They are able to discuss things with you to help during the most difficult times. There are also groups that meet and talk together, sharing stories and experiences.  Depending on what you feel your needs are, you can determine whether or not this type of interaction is something that you would find beneficial.  If you don’t desire to do something on a professional level, make sure you find support in a group of friends or family.  You need to have someone who understands what you are going through. You need to feel comfortable to share your feelings. I found it wasn’t necessary to always have someone say anything back to me, but just to be there to listen to me. Realize that you are not alone in your grief; there are resources to help you.

Honor your loved one’s life

There are many wonderful types of organizations that will allow you to host an event in honor of your loved one. If your loved one died due to a certain illness, find an event that would benefit research on that particular disease, while honoring your loved one’s memory. Find a local cause that your family member was fond of and sponsor an event. For instance, I was able to ask my cousin what she would like me to do to carry on her memory after she was gone. She was always helping others through food banks and shelters and such, so I am organizing a food drive in her memory.  You can start a scholarship fund in your loved one’s memory. Be creative and find the perfect outlet to honor your loved one. This is a positive way to celebrate your loved one’s life and help others in the process.

Take care of yourself

It is very important during a time of great loss to take care of yourself.  Grief impacts your body in huge ways by depleting its energy and emotional resources.  Listen to what your body is saying.  If you need extra rest and quiet time, take it.  Don’t judge yourself during this time.  After losing my cousin, I felt tremendous exhaustion. Oftentimes, it is difficult to cope with routines because suddenly they are different than they had been.  A small task may seem daunting.

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Pace yourself during this time. Don’t expect a lot out of yourself. Your body and emotions have been through major difficulty. It is common to experience sleep difficulties, concentration problems, appetite lose, and even compulsive behavior. Realize all of these are typical and there isn’t anything wrong or crazy about you. Allow yourself the time you need to mend.

Unfortunately, the death of a loved one is inevitable in life. Everyone will lose someone at some point. Understanding that you are not alone, celebrating your loved one’s life, and taking care of yourself are all important aspects on your road to healing your grief. My wish for you today is that if you are hurting, you will find comfort. Remember that those who have gone on are cheering us on to live a life that counts. Make each day special and leave a legacy for others to remember.

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Last Updated on April 11, 2019

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

How Communication Skills Help Your Success

Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

Create a Positive Experience

Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

Help Leadership Skills

It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

Build Better Teams

Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

1. Listen

Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

2. Know Your Audience

Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

Here is a good way to think about it:

Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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3. Minimize

I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

4. Over Communicate

So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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5. Body Language

The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

Conclusion

Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

Now go communicate your way to success.

More Resources About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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