The insights of a loss
What you hear when you lose someone and what you would like to hear.
This is Room To Fail, a newsletter about learning strategy and how to let ourselves fail, just to only get things right the next time. Or the next.
And here’s one about the forever-on strategist brain which is called, yeah, just brain. :)
This is one kind of a special brain failure, friend. Hold on tightly. I’m really sorry if this triggers some of your own sad memories.
At the end of December I lost my dad to cancer. It was a two years long struggle and part of the reason why I stopped writing this piece. And December felt like a looong month. This disease doesn’t just switch of a light, it takes you and your loved ones through a forced, abrupt, somewhat deep connection with the end of life.
And it’s slow. And there are tons of little things you don’t expect, but most of all you don’t expect how fast you get used to all the stages of this situation.
Anyway, this is not a sad newsletter, but one with some insights about death and the air around it that I gathered by paying close attention to myself and my close ones during the last month of my dad’s life. Because, yup, my strategy brain did not stop working.
The real hard thing is not to stay strong, but to not stay strong. To feel what you are feeling. We are creatures that have everything it takes to get through moments of loss, because death has always been a part of life. So the real strenght you need is for managing to keep hearing everyone telling you to be strong when all you want is space not to be.
What does this have to do with strategy? Determine the real problem before you suggest a solution. Obvious, I know, but frequently forgotten. Also, ask yourself if the usual phrases people use make sense or there’s a better way to say something.
Everything people say to try to confort you or your family is about them, not you. People feel helpless and, if they’re not aware of that, they are going to lay that on you.
What does this have to do with strategy? Don’t listen to what people say but try to figure out their true intentions. There’s always a subjective filter over someone’s “objective” opinion. I feel like the better way to know your target is teach yourself to see beyond words.
The best thing to say is not to say much, just listen. Everyone that is not part of the close family feels awkard around moments like this and don’t know what to say to be sensitive, but to also show they care. People that experience loss need a lot of processing and talking about it is a great way to do that. Create that space.
What does this have to do with strategy? The brands that today become popular are most of the times brands that listen & solve real needs of humans. Brand comms can sometimes be just about creating that safe space.
Respect is what a dying person needs most. We tend to treat the ill people, as they gradually lose control of everything they were, with this motherly, nursey care. We start to speak to them differently, louder and in simpler words. My dad taught me we don’t need to do that. He was still my dad, even though I had to help in taking care of him and not the other way around.
What does this have to do with strategy? Respect is something we all need. So, as a brand guide, respect people’s time, attention offering, opinions & feedbacks. Try to give them something worthwhile.
Everyone needs their own rituals. That’s a no brainer, I know, but what I mean is that some might feel confort in the religious rituals, some in reading, some in art, some in sugar. People can be creative in this way and it’s beautiful to observe and respect that.
What does this have to do with strategy? What if we think about brands becoming part of everyday rituals and not of moments? Is there a difference? Is there another outcome? Idk, just thinking about it.
The death and loss per se are not as dramatic as you imagine. If you are not part of the close people, you imagine this loss as dramatic as you feel it at that moment when you are thinking about it. But the reality is that the family and close friends always find ways to bring balance into their universe. There’s a lot of laughter, irony, sarcasm, and gratitude around this event.
What does this have to do with strategy? There’s not just one emotion we can tackle on our way to people’s hearts. Maybe we can think of a mix of emotions. Even ones that don’t usually fit together. As long as they feel true. I guess that’s how dark humor works, right?
Grief doesn’t start at the time of loss. Actually, it comes when you get back to your everyday life. Grief comes in waves, in moments. Grief comes from the great memories, not the awful ones. Grief takes time.
What does this have to do with strategy? That’s how brand communication works too, right? No one is going to get up from their couch and go to the store to buy your product. Plant a seed now and wait for your brand to grow on people. Be patient. Think about future moments you can impact now.
Yup, I just did a parallel between the loss of someone and priciples of my work. Kewl…
I guess that’s a way of coping and searching for meaning in what happened. I’ll embrace that because letting go is not that easy.
Anyway, I know these don’t apply to everyone and some of you might have experienced loss in different ways. But I would love to know about that. I would love to read your stories and your own insights from that moments. So please share. Write to me. I’m here to listen.
🤯 “HOW DID THEY THINK ABOUT THAT?!” SECTION
Some links linked to our talk this week:
Check out this article about a neuroscientist’s take on his own death.
This book (it’s only in Romanian, sorry) that got me through this time in a beautiful and helpful way - Laura Ionescu’s “Nu te gasesc pe nicaieri”
During my short time in anthropology studies I read about death rituals and the roles of women in them. I don’t have the texts anymore, but here are some death rituals that feel beautiful, strange and sometimes funny.
That’s it this week.
I know it was unexpected.
But thank you for getting this far. I really believe that strategy comes from every little thing in life and has tools we can apply back to life situations. Yes, we shouldn’t take ourselves as core target every time, but you know and I know that gut instincts are one of our best way of checking our work.
Hugs to everyone.
Hope you are all good and you haven’t broken your New Year Resolutions yet.
You’ll hear from me again soon,