Making friends with ending

Making friends with ending

by Faith Fuller

Well I think the issue of death is up. There’s no way to go through a pandemic with a rising death toll without thinking about it. Most of us knows someone, who knows someone, who has died. And some of us maybe actively grieving someone. So it’s up as a topic.

At least in terms of North American culture, many of us aren’t very good at confronting death. And I think as a culture we think of death as something to be avoided at all costs. There’s a sense that death is unnatural. That we’ve failed as human beings because we die. And it doesn’t make sense to me. Death is an ongoing important part of living.

So, I think this crisis presents us with an opportunity to confront our mortality and ask the ultimate ORSC™(Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching) question… what’s my relationship with death?

Death is all around

I know some people right now who are completely avoiding the issue. Their relationship with death is similar to someone avoiding a bad break-up: if they see that person’s car on the street they immediately want to go to another section of town. Under no circumstances do they want to talk about the ‘d’ word.

Over time this can create a challenging relationship with something that all of us are going to go through. We are all going to die. And ironically, we are all dealing with death all of the time.

First of all, the seasons are all about the arc of a life of a year. We have spring, the youth of the year; summer is of course when we are in our prime; then comes the beauty of fall; followed finally by death which is winter. The trees are bare and it’s a time of profound quiet and sinking down into the roots. It’s a natural cycle, every single year we go through it. Yet we don’t think of it that way.

What is the beauty in the bare branches? In the restfulness of dropping down into the roots. Quietening and slowing. And confronting our mortality. Because nature does it. Every. Single. Year.

Beginnings, Middles and Ends

Everything we go through has a beginning middle and an end. Every system in your life, whether it’s your family or your team — will have a beginning, middle and end. And as coaches, if we cannot confront ends, then we’re failing our clients. Organizations come to an end, and if they don’t, then the teams within them will change radically or disband at the end of a project. Projects come and go. Products come and go. Everything has a life cycle. And we need to know how to coach the parting of a team, the end of a marriage, the death of a family member, the bankruptcy of a company, the break-up of a friendship. All of us will encounter these kinds of experiences, over and over, so how can we coach the ending of something, whether it’s a person, project or team?

The other true thing is that life goes on after any kind of death. After we die the world will go on without us. And we can choose to leave chaotically, still in denial that it is even happening. Or we can acknowledge it so that we are free to squeeze the goodness out it, the appreciation and the planning for what will happen next.

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The same thing applies to the end of a project or a colleague retiring- how will you continue after that project or person is gone? What is the new shoot that will emerge? It’s an opportunity, it’s a major myth change and we have to honor it. Because if we don’t properly honor it, we can’t properly prepare for the next arc…

What’s next?

I had a dream many years ago after a very painful break up of an early relationship. In the dream, there was this beautiful set of glass buildings. They were stunning. And these glass buildings were crumbling and breaking and smashing to the ground. And then they all came down. There was just rubble everywhere. In the next part of the dream, I was sitting in the rubble stunned. Looking at the rubble of this beautiful thing that had broken. I sat there for what felt like a long time in the dream, just being in the quiet of the aftermath, listening to the wind blow. And then I looked down at the ground and there were some brand-new shoots just starting to come up. Tiny little shoots. And then I woke up. And what I realized from that dream is that there is a time of the death. Which is the coming down of the beautiful structure. And there is the time of sitting in the rubble listening to the wind blow, when there is nothing there. And then there is the time of the new shoots that need to come up, to inform us of what is next. Every death comes with a what is next. The what is next may take years. And it may be painful. But something will always follow on…

Honoring Grief

For those of you out there dealing with grief over a loved one, I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying there’s always a lovely next thing. Grief is a harrowing thing, and sometimes it takes years to recover and sometimes we never recover. And that’s the shape of the new world post-death. So, this isn’t some ‘get over yourself and look for the next thing’ article. Death is harrowing. But it also can be deepening. Looking into the abyss of loss brings the unexpected. And sometimes we don’t have a choice. But we do always have a choice around how we want to be with it.

Rethinking our relationship with death

I’m advocating for a change with our relationship with endings so that we can more skillfully coach our clients through it. And the first step is to acknowledge that it is happening. It’s happening to all of us. And it’s a normal, natural part of life. Planning and celebration can be a part of death. Celebrating the beauty of that glass building, of a life, or that project. And then creating space for the new shoots to emerge. Clearing away the path.

 

Coaching Endings

The very first step to coaching the ending or the death of something is to acknowledge that it’s happening. When we’re unable to acknowledge that someone is dying, or that a relationship has run its course, we rob ourselves of the richness of that phase. The phase that realizes the preciousness in the finite quality of a life. It’s when we truly recognize how much we love someone or how much we’ve enjoyed something. And it gives us a chance to celebrate and prepare for what’s next.

Life goes on…

The other true thing is that life goes on after any kind of death. After we die the world will go on without us. And we can choose to leave chaotically, still in denial that it is even happening. Or we can acknowledge it so that we are free to squeeze the goodness out it, the appreciation and the planning for what will happen next.

No alt text provided for this image

The same thing applies to the end of a project or a colleague retiring- how will you continue after that project or person is gone? What is the new shoot that will emerge? It’s an opportunity, it’s a major myth change and we have to honor it. Because if we don’t properly honor it, we can’t properly prepare for the next arc…

What’s next?

I had a dream many years ago after a very painful break up of an early relationship. In the dream, there was this beautiful set of glass buildings. They were stunning. And these glass buildings were crumbling and breaking and smashing to the ground. And then they all came down. There was just rubble everywhere. In the next part of the dream, I was sitting in the rubble stunned. Looking at the rubble of this beautiful thing that had broken. I sat there for what felt like a long time in the dream, just being in the quiet of the aftermath, listening to the wind blow. And then I looked down at the ground and there were some brand-new shoots just starting to come up. Tiny little shoots. And then I woke up. And what I realized from that dream is that there is a time of the death. Which is the coming down of the beautiful structure. And there is the time of sitting in the rubble listening to the wind blow, when there is nothing there. And then there is the time of the new shoots that need to come up, to inform us of what is next. Every death comes with a what is next. The what is next may take years. And it may be painful. But something will always follow on…

Honoring Grief

For those of you out there dealing with grief over a loved one, I don’t want it to sound like I’m saying there’s always a lovely next thing. Grief is a harrowing thing, and sometimes it takes years to recover and sometimes we never recover. And that’s the shape of the new world post-death. So, this isn’t some ‘get over yourself and look for the next thing’ article. Death is harrowing. But it also can be deepening. Looking into the abyss of loss brings the unexpected. And sometimes we don’t have a choice. But we do always have a choice around how we want to be with it.

Rethinking our relationship with death

I’m advocating for a change with our relationship with endings so that we can more skillfully coach our clients through it. And the first step is to acknowledge that it is happening. It’s happening to all of us. And it’s a normal, natural part of life. Planning and celebration can be a part of death. Celebrating the beauty of that glass building, of a life, or that project. And then creating space for the new shoots to emerge. Clearing away the path.

 

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