Grief Advocacy’s mission is to help organizations revolutionize what it means to belong by creating working environments that are grief inclusive.
Tell us about yourself?
My journey began just over two decades ago when I began volunteering for Home Hospice. I first began caring for men with AIDS and then transitioned to caring for children. And while it is so difficult to summarize all that those experiences were, I can say that I will always be humbled and honoured to be part of those experiences. I will always be drawn to the intimacy, the heartbreak, and the beauty that death and grief enable and empower in us.
However, after caring for children in hospice, I did need a break. It is a tough road for someone in their 20s as it so easily hardens you, and I could feel the resentment and anger always brewing. This break led to me building a successful career in technology sales and eventually led to a VP of Sales role at a digital mental health company. Throughout my career, however, I also became a funeral celebrant and a death doula and was often called upon to support those going through these end-of-life experiences.
When the pandemic hit, I knew I couldn’t carry on in the technology space and decided to start Grief Advocacy. So, I pretty much hit the ground running by building a team to support long-term care and retirement employees through the grief and trauma of the pandemic.
It has been such a wonderful, humbling experience to be surrounded by people who give so much of themselves every day. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else but there, supporting them, reminding them of their worthiness, and holding on to all that they wished was true.
And as we remember and rebuild, my mission is to make something to take what we discovered about ourselves, about our organizational culture, and about society’s expectations and make change so that we can look back and know it was for something.
If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
To better acknowledge the work we did. In a time when most people ran away, we chose to run towards the hardest hit. To acknowledge the courage and the vulnerability it took to sit in the rooms and hear all the stories. To be able to honour the emotional journey inside this work for me and my team. And acknowledge it, not just with words (because we did that), but by slowing down, by not always being required, by choosing compassion over activism sometimes.
What problem does your business solve?
We help organizations become more grief inclusive so they can support their employees’ emotional wellness through adversity. We do this through grief education, workshops, and support groups. We do a fair amount of support at the moment when someone dies in service as well.
What problem do we solve? Well, if I may be so bold as to say, we help organizations communicate through hard things. We help them take responsibility for supporting their team’s emotional wellness. This support often results in a reduction of unpaid leave, better team collaboration, and a deeper alignment with corporate culture.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
In 2015, my best friend died quite suddenly, and as a leader in my organization, I found the lack of support and recognition isolating. I was overwhelmed with shame and guilt for not “getting over it” or “moving on”. I lost interest in my goals. I wanted my team to just “figure it out” I was completely disengaged. Presenteeism is real, and EAP wasn’t the answer. It wasn’t something I had to get over. It was daily support, regular check-ins, etc. that I needed from my team and leadership. I needed my teams to rally around me, to catch me when I stumbled, and to be aware that I wasn’t on my A game.
This is why Grief Advocacy exists. Because leaders need to have the confidence to communicate, because bereavement policies need to be relationship based, not biased on blood relations, and because grief isn’t short and sweet – it’s invasive and a trickster.
What is your magic sauce?
I would consider Employee Assistance Programs to be our biggest competitor, sadly. I am hoping to change that. I believe that the majority of grievers out there do not need a therapist or social worker. I believe grievers need acknowledgement, a shoulder, and someone to help them see a new path forward. Grief never goes away, but we can certainly help you carry it differently.
Today, many organizations initiate employee assistance programs, and honestly, these programs help so many people every day – they’re wonderful, truly – but what are you, as a leader, actively doing to support them? How are you creating supportive cultures filled with compassion? How are you doing so and not burning yourself out?
This, in my mind, is where we build a culture of belonging. Where we can develop leadership skills that actively support emotional wellness for the whole organization. And I know this sounds like a weight on leadership shoulders, but they, too, are part of this system, and their emotional wellness is also key to ensuring no one is pouring from an empty cup.
What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?
The magic question! I want to see more rituals and ceremonies inside of our workplaces. We are starting to see this work take hold in healthcare, and it is absolutely beautiful to see the way teams connect not only to their work but to each other!
I think this is a key element to creating cultures of belonging, but it requires an element of trust and honour that can only happen when we are able to acknowledge the hard things we go through both personally and at work. It’s progressing beautifully and slowly, just as it should.
My vision is actually quite simple: All of our collaborations help us live more equitable, intimate, and creative lives.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?
Saying yes to everything and regretting it.
I have learned to slow down and know when I am not required. I must live from a place of honouring what I am best at and what legacy I am building, and I cannot live an inch deep and a mile wide. That I would much rather get a wee text of gratitude at 11 p.m. from one person than a bunch of flashy logos on our website, and in the startup swirl of craziness, that is a radical way to proceed.