Many of us don’t know what to do with sad news. We’re pros at scary news. We mainline angry news. Too often, we relish shameful news.
But sad? Not so much. You know this from the awkward way we handle a death in a colleague’s family. “I’m sorry for your loss,” they hear so many times. It’s a carefully scripted response. We’ve been taught that it’s pretty much the only safe thing to say in those circumstances. Then we exit the conversation before we say anything stupid or the other person gets emotional.
But there is a lot to lament these days, from the loss of loved ones to the loss of work and perceived security. Most cultures across time and space have known that it’s smarter and healthier to bear those burdens together. They learned that stoic independence isn’t as strong as it looks.
Of course, you’re not going to dump your sadness bucket on a random stranger. This is where your crew comes in again. You can ask each other, “What’s the hard thing you’re going through right now?”
What happens next matters. If you’re like me, you’ll be tempted to solve the problem, to share your own story of woe, or to quickly change the subject. Anything to deflect the sadness or disappointment. Don’t. Instead, sit with it. Thank the other person for trusting you. Acknowledge how hard the situation must be. Tell them you’re with them in spirit even if you can’t be there in person.
This isn’t wallowing. I’m not advocating we all become Danny/Debbie Downers. Creating space for mourning is just respect.
Mourn with those who mourn. That’s the kind of person you are. That’s the kind of crew you’re building. Together, you can help each other with that all-important job of self-management, even when it’s sad.