At the risk of sounding morbid, I’d say that loss, death, and trauma are just as much a part of the human experience as connection, life, and healing. I’d be remiss not to credit the coronavirus pandemic for bringing loss, death, and trauma to the surface as of late.
According to the most recent Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index Poll, one in eight Americans knows someone who has died from COVID-19. So, chances are, if you haven’t experienced a direct coronavirus-related death, someone you care about has.
Suffering a loss is never easy. But suffering the loss of someone during a pandemic, when the world as we knew it has stopped spinning, is certain to be a surreal challenge.
It’s true that people come in and out of our lives. Some stay, and some go. Some can make an impact on you in a mere two minutes, and others impact you over the span of 60 years—and everywhere in between. For me personally, the recent context of so much loss worldwide has stirred up feelings of trauma that are tied to two very influential pieces of my journey.
John C. Crosby famously said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction,” and I couldn’t agree more. If you’re lucky enough to connect with someone as a mentor/mentee, take a minute to reflect and experience gratitude for this synergistic relationship. I am fortunate to have crossed paths with Kenny Kramm in 2003, working as his young and enthusiastic assistant at FlavorX, a medication-flavoring company. From the very beginning, I could see Kenny’s determination to be successful, his drive to something good for the world, and his devotion to his family; this was the source of his entrepreneurial genius.
When I lost my beloved Siberian husky, Bandit, it was Kenny who encouraged and supported me in my efforts to channel my grief into something productive. He knew this storyline all too well, as his own personal grief had launched him into his pioneering pursuit and eventual success in the 1990s with FlavorX. Together, we felt like we had the potential to start a company that would provide loving pet owners with innovative wellness products to enhance a pet’s quality of life.
Subsequently in 2014, with our vision in alignment, we launched RestoraPet. Then, in 2016, tragedy struck. After a long and brave battle with addiction, Kenny lost his life to sepsis.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s possible to live on this earth without enduring trauma from loss. It’s not really your choice, is it? But how you face that trauma, that loss, that death is up to you. You can choose to transform that trauma into something that eventually does serve you. When you take the time to look inward, reflect on your experiences and what lessons life has taught you, you will grow. In the four years since Kenny’s passing, I have certainly experienced a wide range of emotions, thoughts, and questions; here are my reflections on how to best move forward after experiencing the loss of someone close to you, which I hope may be of some help or comfort to those who have recently lost a close colleague or mentor to COVID-19.
Process your grief and heal
Societal norms (due in large part to capitalism and the patriarchy) tend to make us feel as though our worth comes from our productivity. Sometimes plowing forward might seem like the best option to minimize the time spent dwelling over a loss, but the truth is that unresolved grief will significantly impair your ability to carry out someone’s wishes and work as time goes on. Taking the time now for self-care is important, as well as developing an understanding that the grieving process is never truly over. Allow yourself to feel emotions associated with grief and sit with it—not forever, but for enough time to heal. You will gradually grow stronger in the face of adversity.
Honor and carry forth their story
The lack of someone’s physical presence does not lessen the lasting impact they made on you while they were still living. As you continue to work toward your vision, remember the principles and values that person instilled in you. When you do feel like your energy is stable, you can channel your strong emotions into your passion projects and work and continue to weave the integrity of their spirit into said work. Remember that you are a product of their wisdom and efforts and that their legacy is carried on as you continue working toward your goals. Feel free to journal to them when you’re trying to work something out in your head. This may simply be cathartic, or it could lead to an internal aha moment.
Pay it forward
Lastly, carry on the legacy of that special influential stardust being who’s inspired you by helping someone else. As you reflect on the positive impact they had on your life, be sure to become a beacon of light yourself. Pay attention to your department, company, field, network, etc. Once you’ve reached the point of growth where you can help nurture someone else as they work toward their dreams, you perpetuate the chain into the future, and you will be able to profoundly honor the person you look up to by keeping their memory (and their impact on the world) alive.
Brian Larsen is the CEO and founder of RestoraPet.