Before you pass by this article because you think it doesn’t apply to you, please think twice. While the massacre that occurred in Orlando over the weekend may not have directly affected you, if you are an executive, manager or anyone who employs others, the following is knowledge you need to keep for the future.
As a resident of the Orlando area and one who has endured the murder of an 11 year-old stepdaughter, which took 18 years to solve, and nearly 20 years to see justice for her, I wanted to help the business community better understand the complex needs of those who are confronted with the murder of someone in their family, among their immediate friends or business colleagues.
One might think from the continual calls for gun control that this is the primary way that a person can be murdered. But from the countless murder trials I have attended as a victim advocate, I can attest there are many ways human beings kill other human beings. It is the intent and malice which wreaks havoc.
Arson, intentional drowning, stabbings, beatings, bombings, pushing from heights, sabotaging a car or airplane so it will crash, suffocation, choking, hanging, poisoning, being buried alive, stuffing rocks down a child's throat, even cutting up a body and cooking it.
And it all starts with the phone call. The unimaginable phone call. The phone call which no one ever believes they will get. The phone call that has us grasping for breath, in uncontrollable tears and grief. The one which changes our lives forever.
It can also start with police at your door. Or the chaos of rushing to the emergency room waiting for the doctor to come from surgery to announce the unthinkable. And worse, it can come from the media reports when a name is given and you had no idea your loved one was among the victims.
The reactions range from physical collapse, to screams, to wailing, to rage, to staring in silence, to hitting and lashing out. There is no correct way to experience grief. It comes in all forms and when a person you love is murdered, you have no idea how you will react because there is no manual which says ‘when your parent is murdered, your sibling is murdered, your spouse is murdered or your child is murdered, you react like this.’
With the onslaught of terrorism around the world, the murder of innocents will occur more than we had previously known, especially in what we thought was a safe United States. But for those of us who have believed for some time that it was only a matter of time that sleeper cells of those who wish us harm would kill us and we wouldn’t be able to tell the good from the bad guys, this time has now come.
In the business community, we tend to shy away from getting too close to this issue. We want to continue to reach our goals and sometimes act as if the outside world doesn’t touch us.
Real life is scary. And as we move forward, we’d like to keep our head in the sand and believe it will not touch us. But it does. And it can. And we must be realistic now.
There may come a time when someone in your company is affected by the murder of someone they love. It might be a business colleague above you, equal to you, or one you supervise. How will you deal with this?
After the initial notification of the murder, the stunned individuals are in shock. They need to contact all of their family members, raise the money to not only hold the funeral but to help those in the family to travel to them, arrange for accommodations in homes or hotels, buy clothing for the children, bring in food, etc.
But unlike a natural death, they are working with police, assistant district attorneys, victim assistance coordinators, and others in law enforcement who may need hair and dental records for positive identification.
They need to visit the medical examiner’s office to make a positive ID of their loved one’s body. Can you imagine seeing your child, mother, brother, wife on a cold table with a sheet over their body and their face on a television screen; a sight that will remain with you forever.
You didn’t get to say goodbye. You didn’t get to hold them. And sometimes, in certain cases, you may never recover a body to say goodbye to or bury.
You wait several days till the autopsy is complete before their body is returned to your family for burial. The house is a buzz with people helping to make the arrangements, bringing food, and you sit rocking yourself in a stationery chair to comfort yourself like a child.
And eventually you realize.
Oh…work…Holy crap…how do I tell my boss?
Your mind is overwhelmed with trying to figure out what you need to do now.
You need to make a plan to offer your boss but there is so much going on you have absolutely no idea what you can do, not do, how long this is going to take, can they pay me while I deal with this, what will they say, will I still have my job after I bury my child, husband, mother, sister?
How compassionate will they be? Do I have any benefits for this outside of my regular days off? How do I balance my emotional needs, my family’s need for me to be present with them, and the additional finances I need to exist right now? How am I going to balance all this?
What do I do with the projects I’m working on? Who will take my responsibilities while I’m not in the office? Can I trust them not to steal my job?
When a loved one is murdered, the grieving process takes years until a family member will reach stability. In this case where the shooter was killed, the victims and the victims’ surviving family have no one to whom they can express their rage. If the murderer is still alive and a trial ensues, the family then must wait till they can confront him in court, often waiting years until a trial comes together.
Most survivors of homicide victims put their grief on hold until the trial because they are waiting for justice to be served. So while most employers expect that the employee will be over it by then, in reality it is usually only after the trial that the families feel they can truly start the grieving process since the criminal justice part of their journey is now complete.
If you, as an employer, executive or manager gets that dreaded call from a member of your team who suddenly find themselves in this horrific situation, how will you respond?
Will you respond with compassion? Will you assist with finances? Will you gather your team together and figure out how to accommodate the needs of your grief stricken employee or colleague? Will you consider that this could be your tragedy?
Enduring the murder of a loved one leaves family members in an extremely vulnerable place financially. Will you add to that stress or work with your employees and colleagues to develop a plan of action for them?
Take a moment to really let this sink in. This could be you at some point.
The Golden Rule of treating others as we wish to be treated - invaluable.
Mary M. McCambridge is an award-winning and best-selling author of several books, executive grief coach, bereavement specialist with over 30 years working with survivors of homicide victims and grieving children, speaker, thought leader, and creator of The Foundation for Grieving Children, Inc. She co-founded the first Parents of Murdered Children group in New York City and was honored by New York State Legislative Resolution for her work in homicide bereavement. .
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Mary Mac specializes in helping executives and entrepreneurs understand and navigate through their grieving process after a significant tragedy. If you are suffering emotionally, physically, financially and/or spiritually because you've tried to take care of everyone else but yourself, this is your time and this is the place.