How Grief Shapes A Leader

As I write this entry tonight, waves of grief are hitting me hard and I am letting them flow in and out. I reflected back on the grief I felt in 2016 when my father lost his battle with cancer. Matt was the first person I called to cry to and share my grief with. He listened without a word and was “fully present” with me, his friend. Then at the end of the conversation he reminded me of the grief prior to my dad’s death and how it shaped me as a leader. He gave me specific examples he remembered where I shared with him how my experience with loss helped countless students and troops of my own. Grief is a natural part of life and leaders who go through the stages of grief, reflect upon it, and grow from it are better equipped when a follower comes to their office or calls them with tragic news. As an Operations Superintendent these last three years the grief my troops have faced, far surpasses anything I could have predicted years prior. Grief when expressed healthily as I’ve learned with the death of my best friend, has created an inspiration and gratitude that far surpasses what was in my soul before. The richness his friendship and grace brought to my kids and I will never be forgotten. It will ALWAYS get paid forward. Even though he’s gone from this earth he’s all around us – his friends, family and comrades. His wisdom helped us on earth to be better people, to find the silver lining as a leader – to give hope to those who follow us into the unknown!

The photo above was taken the week I went home for my father’s memorial service. A tender moment with my daughter who crawled over to her mama and said to me “Mama, I’m sorry you’re sad.” These words she would say again a few years later as I cried over Matt’s death.

So many times as a leader (too many to count), I’ve held my troops hands when they lost a child, lost a husband, a sister, father…a mother. I’ve learned the grief we experience does indeed shape us as leaders. But only if we channel it for inspiration and heart-based leadership of our people. Most importantly grief can make us a better person.

Thank you Matt for teaching us what really matters in life and leadership! I miss you my brother!

Love & Leadership,


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