This is one way to connect with your board

Is your team having a hard time? Are you? Are you wondering why going through the day-to-day just seems to be hard these days? Maybe it’s ambiguous loss.

Lately I’ve been reading about and talking about ambiguous loss. What is that? 

how is ambiguous loss different from traditional loss? 
Traditional loss has grief counselors, seen as normal, spiritual beliefs and teachings exist that speak to death and mourning. It's normal to mourn loss after death. 

But with Ambiguous loss, there's a lack of knowledge about what ambiguous loss is, tremendous lack of services and supports, seen as not normal, complicated grief, not affecting the mass majority, no spiritual beliefs or teachings to discuss ambiguous loss, cannot mourn because no defined death to mourn.

According to Psychology Today, “While we’re trying to find ways to soothe ourselves and each other, we’re canceling birthdays, vacations, and weddings.

We’re also losing scheduled surgeries, new jobs, the ability to pay rent, and, overall, the feeling that we can predict what will come next and that we are in control.

This type of loss, which can’t be concretely verified or easily resolved, is called “ambiguous loss.” It is a term developed by Dr. Pauline Boss.” 

If people are pushing you to get back to normal, but it doesn’t feel right, this could be why. 

Even if you didn’t lose anyone to COVID (and many of us did) you can still have grief.

Because we don’t know when the pandemic will end.

It’s still disabling and killing people every day.

And people are being asked to go back to work with unmasked people and pretend that everything is fine. 

We know that COVID infections don’t give you immunity. And they don’t just lead to long COVID. According to Dr Eric Ding, COVID can also lead to a 43% more likelihood of developing autoimmune diseases like Hashimotos, Crohn’s Disease, and Rheumatoid Arthritis. 

How acknowledging ambiguous loss can make you a better leader, and a better fundraiser:

I was recently on a panel and we talked about the latest trends with nonprofit boards, what has changed in the last few years, and innovative ways to keep boards engaged.

Of course I talked about the call from funders for more diverse boards, the need for board training, paying board members, and power.

But when it came to innovation, I shared about ambiguous loss.

We’ve tried not acknowledging feelings, and treating our workers like robots. It would be WAY more innovative to actually acknowledge what we’re feeling, and how it’s affecting our motivation.

Here’s my challenge to you.

Do you really want to innovate?

Acknowledge the ambiguous loss in the room.

Give people space to share what they lost, what they miss, what they are not sure they will ever get back.

People join boards for all sorts of reasons, but one of the primary ones is to feel connected with others.

One of the ways we can deprogram from toxic capitalist patterns is to stop, take a breath and acknowledge our feelings and our needs.

Maybe nobody feels like working. Maybe just working til you die for a 2 week vacation each year seems completely meaningless.

Maybe this is an opening to talk about post-capitalist futures and resisting work.

Capitalism Crashed! Install new System? Ok! We have to acknowledge the ambiguous loss of the crash of capitalism.

When you help board members feel, it’s gonna feel weird at first.

But then you might start to see them open up, and invite you to open up too, and build deeper connections that can help your community long term.

Give your board and yourself space to be human.

As this pandemic goes on, we need grace and empathy more than ever.

This conversation allows grief to flow and healing to start.

Are you gonna try it?

Let me know how it goes.


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