Grief is perhaps an unknown territory for you. You might feel both helpless and hopeless without a sense of a “map” for the journey. Confusion is the hallmark of a transition. To rebuild both your inner and outer world is a major project. – Anne Grant*
My most recent “major project”, to use Anne Grant’s phrase, began on a Friday afternoon August 31, 2007. It was Labor Day weekend so our offices at the radio station were pretty well vacated.
As Station Manager of Spirit 102.3 I had scheduled an appointment with our VP/Market Manager to discuss a few programming matters … or so I thought.
Within the first couple of minutes I knew something was up, I just didn’t know what. Instead of discussing my agenda, the conversation quickly turned to the 2008 Budget. Corporate wanted substantial cuts; my future became the real agenda; my position was being eliminated.
To say I was in shock is no exaggeration and aptly illustrated by my question: “Are you telling me I’m not coming back on Monday?”
Indeed, I would not return on Monday.
I would go down the hall and pack my office and call Rita for a ride home; “my” company car was a company car.
My exit would be without the opportunity to say farewell to my team and people I truly cared about. No punch, no cookies, no farewell party for the “people person”.
Shock and awe does not overstate my emotional response.
Yes, I appreciated the assurance given that it was not a performance issue.
Yes, I appreciated the helpful severance package.
Still, I was treated like a piece of machinery, not a piece of humanity.
Last Wednesday was the Fourth Anniversary of that Friday-afternoon, end of this chapter, broadcast radio Story; that fast-track ended.
While reflecting on this part of my Story, I identified 4 steps in my response to that sudden jolt. Perhaps you can identify with my “shock-n-awe” chapter along your journey … here is what I did:
When something surprising and upsetting comes, we experience shock; distress, numbness, or fear are indeed normal as the new reality sets in: I’m not coming back on Monday!
Oxygen is a grace gift from our Creator, it not only keeps us alive physically, it helps create space so we can think and helps quiet our heart and mind … a good thing for such times.
Breathe, don’t panic, “It’s just business.”
Forgiveness is about freedom, our freedom.
Intellectually, I knew it was “just business” but emotionally it felt personal. So this is where a 10 year relationship brings us? This is how we will write the ending chapter of our Story?
Forgiveness is required for the other truth: it is more than “just business”.
How about some respect for the human being? No opportunity given to connect with my colleagues, direct reports, and friends; yes, friends. And, what about my sacrifices for the company?
While we could agree to disagree on the business decision, how I was “handled” was personally painful. Only forgiveness would keep from that self-limiting box and by God’s grace I escaped.
3. Create Space
Given the shock of this event, I was not prepared to make any quick decisions. As reality settled in, September was declared a sabbatical.
Sabbaticals are those designated times away from work usually for research, study, or travel and often with pay; that’s what I needed and was fortunate enough to have.
Within a matter of days, a lot of life was on the my calendar:
- my 53rd birthday on September 4
- our sixth grandchild, Max, was born on September 5th and required a few days in the NICU
- my wife Rita’s birthday, September 7
- our 31st Wedding Anniversary, September 12
Thinking of September as a sabbatical released me to set October 1 as the date I would start working on “What now?” … which is what I did.
Creating space is critical to our ability to experience personal growth and continued success along the journey. It is vital to our ability to find our way and gain perspective after a sudden jolt.
4. Connect with others
I’ll never forget Lucy’s call. She was a consultant for our company and called as soon as she learned of the decision. She simply said “I believe in you.” Thank you, Lucy and others who called over the days ahead.
(Note to self: when inclined to ignore news of someone’s jolt, move toward the person, it will never be forgotten and your call will make a difference.)
It’s not what we say; it’s that we care enough to call that matters.
These four steps – combined with my faith in God and my commitment to journal – helped me move forward into a life-changing transition bringing me to this spacious place I now enjoy as an executive coach.
What is your “sudden jolt” story?
How do you relate to these 4 steps?
What did you do to get through your “shock and awe” moment?
Please comment below.
*Anne Grant was a Scottish Poet; 1755-1838
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