Handling personal loss while holding onto your work hat!

When my younger brother of 35 years old died suddenly in a tragic incident in August 2020, I wanted to stay in bed for a week but couldn’t. In one of the hardest times of my life, we have two parents both with serious health conditions and keeping them from losing their will was huge.

He was my first of two brothers, we’d been chatting only the day before in my parents house. He was still our ‘little’ brother of course as he had returned to college a couple of years ago and was a student once more. Though we’d seen each other only every few weeks over the Covid months given movement restrictions in Dublin March – July, I always believed that our lives would be connected together forever. And now, at only 35, he’s gone.

Often we think about and are, in some ways, prepared for the loss of older relatives–our grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. Yet here I was totally shocked and unprepared to lose a sibling, I always thought our siblings are supposed to make it to the end with us. I thought my brother Michael would be there for all the big emotional moments in our life, like celebrating his 40th birthday or attending my son Morgan’s 3rd birthday.

I feel so odd even writing this as I think the death of a younger sibling as the eldest has some odd effect or immoral aspect to it. Why am I alive longer than he is?  I felt when we lost my brother, his death took away one of my connections to the past. Michael knew me in a very special way, unlike those who know me now as an adult. Its like a constant is gone. I really felt  over the months after his death quite insecure. I didn’t have frequent weekly communication with him and that makes me feel sad and guilty at the same time. He holds a special place in my life as my brother even though he didn’t have an impact on my day-to-day activities. I also found after losing Michael, especially with work and around friends , that his death made me feel older, and vulnerable to life, like our family is dwindling somehow.

People don’t always grieve in the same way – not everyone will cry or feel sad. Some people might feel shocked or numb, especially in the first days or weeks. We all appreciate grief is different for everyone, and people process it in different ways. For me, losing my brother, and then trying to snap back into ‘work mode’ and ‘positive mode’ really was challenging.

Everyone’s work situations are different, but it’s safe to say that most of us have to get back to an office or to a job at some point. No matter how long you are able to take, getting back into the regular routine when you’re in a serious state of mourning is hard. I’m an Event Organiser and marketing specialist, while also lecturing professionals and final years in higher education in Ireland. While I had a set number of days off, I needed to consider the need to work as there were no live physical events taking place, no conference, awards or sporting events which meant I was already on an income reduction for 2020. I had to work consistently in order to pay my share of the bills. I found it was a huge financial stress when I didn’t do much work for almost two weeks. Also by August, I felt so many wonderful souls had been taken from friends and colleagues around me, that death had somewhat become normal news to people. We were becoming numb to the new of losses as the impact of the pandemic took effect on us all.

Given I have clients in Industry as well as the College and University I work in, I rather talk to countless people on a daily basis—and I’m closer to some of them than others. Its also quite an International work environment and self managing. It can feel even in normal circumstances ‘silo -like’ at the best of times. So, the first question that came to mind when I sat back down to re-engage with my work was: Who should I tell? Everyone? No one? Even more confusing was the fact that I both wanted and didn’t want to talk about it. The tragedy had been in the news, the papers, the national TV news. I was so conflicted.

I didn’t know how to keep the fact inside, but at the same time I thought that I wasn’t supposed to talk about my personal life in my professional world. The lines I find are quite blurred for me  in my role; I communicate quite a lot on social media as many of my friends are there working away in different regions or countries. I love the volunteer work I do with the global board, and I had commitments to deliver there too, distractions that were welcomed at the time. Many people I work with are my friends on LinkedIN, Facebook or WhatsApp. Reeling from the death of my younger brother, I consumed myself with work, being a mum and had a number of upcoming virtual events to plan. In an act of trying to stay busy, while also trying my best to stay positive and enjoy the good moments with my husband and son, there were times when I allowed the grief to set in and I called on the universe and those I knew who asked about me to help me get through it.

Silence. I was surprised with the existing ‘radio silence’ I felt still existed. Everyone experiences loss at some point in their lives, and yet I felt like I had to apologise for taking a conversation to a negative place. We know there are none of us that get through life unscathed by grief, which means the immediate aftermath, when simply leaving the house can feel unbearable, is also a universal experience. Yet the silence persists, or even just because it’s painful and hard. I spoke to a number of experts and many friends around me who unfortunately had suffered losses throughout the pandemic, some within our minding creative minds community about how to best face the world (and your work life ) when you’re grieving as I didn’t like the feeling of being uncertain about how to proceed. I also wanted to be able to grieve the death of my brother while being respectful of family members who are also dealing with his loss. I refrained from sharing all the details of upcoming projects, or positive news. There were times when I didn’t feel like getting up in the morning to go to work, but I buried myself with projects as well as ongoing classes, and once up and active at work, I felt I could stay motivated and distracted. With a nearly three year old son, there is never a moment where I am not distracted at home 🙂  However, in reading about grief, I read about a Professor Wolfson who says it’s important to make space for grief and doing this can actually feel freeing. “Grief never goes away. It is something we all learn how to adapt to. The intensity of grief changes over time,” Wolfson explains. “One of the big things that helps us adapt to loss is to make space for these emotions. This allows you to re-engage with your life and have a vision that’s meaningful in the absence of your loved one,” he says.

I got back a number of tips from my readings and asking questions to those who had been through the journey.  Here is just a few…

 

Tell your management /reporting colleagues immediately:

When you return to work or even before, make sure your management and colleagues know about your loss. Depending on your relationship with your managers, this may seem challenging, or awkward, but it’s very important.Though you don’t need to alert every single person you work for or with, ‘there’s someone you report into and that person should know. You can be straightforward. You will want the people you work closely with to know that you might need some extra support on the job. These are difficult things to talk about but also important to talk about. They are also normal life events. Everyone will experience loss in their lives. And everyone will experience vulnerability while grieving,

 

Plan ahead and pre your reply: 

Prepare for some of the workplace situations that might arise with even the most well-intentioned colleagues. If you’re worried, for example, that as soon as you step into the office, you’ll start crying and won’t be able to stop, or that someone will ask intrusive questions you don’t want to answer,decide in advance how you want to respond.

 

Identify your lifeline: 

Find one person, ideally at work—though it could be an outside friend—with whom you feel known, accepted, and understood, and let that person know you might need to call on them throughout the day.

 

Self-Care  for you, & co: ( As I write this I know I’m not following it as perfectly myself as I could).

I do believe now, possibly I couldn’t understand it as much before, that a person shouldn’t feel like you have to keep it together for every hour every day. Try to take at least a short break during the day, time to breath, get out of the office, take a breath. Creating time to take care of yourself can do wonders for dealing with loss. People can practice self-care in a variety of ways, like journaling, joining a bereavement support group, or participating in online networks or groups that deal with loss. The bottom line is that you should never feel alone in your grief and staying connected to others can help you process your emotions.

 

The Guilt trip:

In my family life, especially when it came to being at home with my husband and son, there were times I felt absent or distracted and then afterward a wave of guilt for not being completely present and taking joy in every minute of my son’s progress. Sometimes I would find myself fighting back the tears and singing a song with him so he wouldn’t see mammy upset. From reading, I know It’s common to feel guilty about grief, especially if you don’t want to be overbearing on your partner or family members. While myself and my husband Martin were present to see my son Morgan make his milestones. I was worried that I wasn’t showing them both how happy I was or that I was overwhelming Martin with my roller coaster of emotions. What helped me get through this tough period was having conversations with Martin about the waves of sadness I felt, while also reveling in the moments of joy and laughter we share about Morgan etc. These conversations are still happening even now 🙂 We tend to rely heavily on our partners for emotional support when we’re grieving, and this is completely fine. Family members like siblings and others can be feeling quite raw or mixed, and sometimes still reacting to their own trauma so alot fell on my husband martin and close friends. This is what they signed up for, after all, but it’s important for them to get the support they need, too.

Professor Wolfson mentions “Engaging with positive experiences and emotions is central to the process of adapting to loss. However, it can certainly be challenging if you feel you are in a different place than those around you,” Wolfson says. By communicating your feelings with your partner, family and friends, they can understand that people grieve at different paces and in different ways. “Through communication and openness, you can feel more understood by your support system in your grief and be empathetic towards the feelings of those around you,” he adds.

 

Prepare for the big milestones you will miss:

Birthdays, and holidays are often difficult—but can be predicted. It will help if you anticipate that these may be difficult times, as they are times when you are likely to be reminded of the person you have lost. If you know you might feel extra sensitive on one of these occasions, don’t be afraid to take a day out. My brother Michel would have been 36 on 22nd February and we went to my parents, had his cake and took time to be around each other, and to honour his memory.

He s 1 year gone Aug 13th. For the most part, work is no longer the problem (it keeps me busy) and I’m trying to stop apologising when I do talk about my grief, even in work and professional settings. I still find myself tearing up at unexpected times or feeling pure disbelief, but I’m getting more comfortable with knowing that might happen and to allow myself to let it happen and go with it.  It helps that I am surrounded by good support, and within this community I have been given great comfort. I have to say it’s unique and really lovely to be within the community here as there is always lots to do and that helps me stay in touch through organising, co ordinating programmes etc. Something I know I will fine and it is because of networks and communities like our one here, it allows me take time for myself and share discussions on topics that are important to me , to support those in events and the creative sector in general. It really helps feed my soul working with all the wonderful people around us, the volunteers, the team who are creating some great projects together. I take comfort in hoping my brother  Michael is keeping an eye on us too 🙂

 

Emma Olohan.
Lecturer, Business Owner, International Marketing, Events & PR specialist. MCM Board and Global Goodwill Ambassador. 

Meet & Greet 10 – October 18th

On Monday October 18th, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

 

Meet & Greet 9 – September 20th

On Monday September 20th, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

As we prepare for our sector to finally reopen, it is even more important we stay connected with our peers and colleagues. Minding Creative Minds Monthly Online Meet and Greet Session facilitates this perfectly. By being present we can be an active support for each other, by getting involved we can help each other navigate the months ahead as our industry reopens and we can regain our work routines. Some have already had an opportunity to dip our toes into the work arena via test events and while we will all be thrilled to get back to steady work routines, this can bring its own challenges. Minding Creative Minds Meet and Greet Sessions will bring us together so we can continue to support each other and our industry beyond Covid restrictions. If you have not been able to visit already, consider coming by on September 20 th to say Hi.Ailish Toohey, Communications Lead at Minding Creative Minds.

 

Meet & Greet 8 – August 30th

On Monday August 30th, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

Our forthcoming Meet & Greet will be our eighth session.
What I am most struck by during these gatherings is the amazing network of professionals there are in the Irish arts sectors and what a supportive, kind and innovative group of people we all are part of. The beauty of the meetings is that there is no specific agenda for each meeting so we share whatever is the most relevant information for our sector that week, and we have time to get to know each other in smaller break-out rooms . The atmosphere is friendly and there is no pressure on anyone to participate more than they want to. It’s been a lovely way for each of us to broaden our network, during what otherwise could have been quite an isolating time.
Ann Marie Shields, Minding Creative Minds Director and Head of Careers, Industry and
Events at BIMM Institute.

If you experience any problems when registering or following registration for our Meet and Greet session please contact us on info@mindingcreativeminds.ie.

 

Meet & Greet 7 – July 19th

On Monday June 21st, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

This will be our 7th Meet & Greet event and Minding Creative Minds is delighted to host this evening on a monthly basis offering support, encouragement and an opportunity to share ideas and plans as we plan for the return of arts, cultural and live events once again. MCM recently celebrated it’s first anniversary and we’d like to thank everyone who has contacted us over the past year and to continue to highlight that anyone working within the Irish Creative sector is eligible to use the services of Minding Creative minds which range from our 24/7 helpline to free counselling to advice on a range of issues ranging from legal, to financial to career matters.Dave Reid, Minding Creative Minds Founder.

If you experience any problems when registering or following registration for our Meet and Greet session please contact us on info@mindingcreativeminds.ie.

 

Meet & Greet Session 6 – June 21st

On Monday June 21st, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

“Beyond providing a needed check-in for the creative and event community in Ireland, our online meet & greet sessions have proven to be a relaxed, informal space to share and question.  Our community has a snail pace live calendar and an even slower freelance market.  For those in the events and creative industry, it can feel impossible to land a gig or job in light of this past year, in the past 6 months and still today. It is important to turn to different forms of career or relationship building and focus on controllable factors for your personal career journey and in a place you can relate. Networking can be one way to greatly help.  Continuing to network and grow as professionals in the world of coronavirus is more important than ever, it is beneficial to still create industry connections.”  

“It’s as important as ever to gather advice and receive insight on new opportunities that may come in the future as well as having a sense of belonging.  For some our Minding Creative Minds monthly online session, offers a needed connection during these times and depending on one’s location it might be their only connection to the community. Communication lines are opening further across the sector, friendships being forged and experiences being shared; a natural support structure has commenced.  A true positive in a backdrop of negativity and one which will remain in place even when the sector reopens and we are back touring, performing, creating and attending live events and so much more. It’s evident how this monthly meet up is becoming a joyful, positive and conversational place to go.  One request I have for all of us is that we continue to spread the word.” Emma Olohan Sarramida, Minding Creative Minds Director and Director United Events Global, Lecturer, VP PR PWN Global Ngo.

If you experience any problems when registering or following registration for our Meet and Greet session please contact us on info@mindingcreativeminds.ie.

 

Mindfulness & Meditation Classes

Minding Creative Minds in association with Ben Glover, accredited mindfulness & meditation teacher, is delighted to offer free mindfulness and meditation classes to members of the Irish Creative Sector. Ben will host three classes on consecutive Tuesday evenings at 7pm, starting on 15 June.

Ben is a certified mindfulness meditation teacher who works extensively with private clients as well as running meditation programs within the corporate setting. His training is in awareness and compassion-based practices and in addition, he is also a certified hypnotherapist. In describing his practice he says, “The tool of meditation is a transformative way to simply be with all the experiences that we encounter and bring an awareness and awakened response to them.” Ben is a native of County Antrim in N.Ireland but currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee. He comes from a creative background having been a touring singer-songwriter for the last fifteen years.

For more information please go to Be Still Aware Awake.

Meet & Greet Session 5 – May 17th

On Monday May 17th, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

Kim O’ Callaghan (Minding Creative Minds Director, MCD Project Manager and Deputy Event Controller and EPIC working group) says “The MCM meet and greet sessions have been a great opportunity for members of the creative industry to connect, and share their current experiences in navigating their way through these challenging times for the Industry . This past 14 months has been a very surreal and challenging time for so many in the industry , but those who have attended the meet and greet session have found a very supportive, informative community with shared experiences and great tips and advice. The Breakout rooms within the overall sessions have been very successful in giving people the opportunity in smaller groups to share information, thoughts, ideas and support each other.”

If you experience any problems when registering or following registration for our Meet and Greet session please contact us on info@mindingcreativeminds.ie.

 

The ViVid Project Launch

The ViViD Project is organised and ran by freelance photographer Andrew Crowley, who goes by the name of Sunny Sardini Pictures.

The ViViD Project is a photography project aiming to contribute to the important conversation of mental health awareness within the Irish Creative Sector.

#TVP is producing a photobook with the theme of mental health/mental wellbeing and features various photographers across the Republic of Ireland and their work. The launch of the photobook will take place on the 29th of April 2021. You can register for #TVP Online Launch at www.sunnysardini.ie/the-vivid-project

This online launch will include industry guest speakers:

  • Music and Portrait photographer – Ruth Medjber
  • Concert photographer & mental health activist – Kieran Frost
  • Minding Creative Minds founder – Dave Reid

The ViViD Project is fundraising for Minding Creative Minds. Minding Creative Minds is a free 24/7 Wellbeing Support Programme for the entire Irish Creative Sector.

There will be two versions of the photobook. One you can find online at www.sunnysardini.ie/the-vivid-project where viewers can also donate. If you donate €20 or more you will receive a hard copy of The ViViD Project Photobook via the post!

 

 

Meet & Greet – April Session

Meet & Greet Session 4 – April 19th, 7pm

On Monday April 19th, Minding Creative Minds’ (MCM) in association with The Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, EPIC Working Group, Irish Music Rights Organization (IMRO), Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA), MCD Productions & The Cowshed will hold its next online meet and greet session. This MCM Meet and Greet Session is open to the entire creative community in all of Ireland and our Irish overseas.

In previous sessions following the opening words by Ann Marie, we broke into smaller discussion groups. Your feedback to this structure was very positive so we will be following this format at our April session. If you wish to offer feedback on the structure to any session we would love to hear from you to info@mindingcreativeminds.ie.

The aim of our MCM Meet and Greet Session is for attendees to share our experiences, share advice with each other and have a conversation with our peers as we strive to get our sector back to full health. Some of us may wish to tell our story, others may have questions, some of us may wish to attend as spectators just to find out a little more about what we do. Whatever works for you in attending, works for us. We want you to help us shape MCM and our events, so we as an organisation can maximise our efficiency in aiding and supporting your needs.

Rowan McDonagh from The Cowshed says “Minding Creative Minds Meet & Greet Sessions are proving to be a hugely valuable and insightful peek into the many varied issues we are all experiencing during these hard times. We get to see and hear the many different ways we are all affected, from the financial, legal and mental health problems many of us are experiencing in our isolated lives. We are seeing that a shared experience and safe space to voice our concerns and be heard as a community is proving to be a valued collective space. And more so, going forward this is a space we can all return to as a community to seek solace, comfort and unity.”