Dealing with Grief

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“It’s a lifelong dance between feeling our sadness and inviting moments of joy to be experienced.

As we toggle between the two, we acknowledge that what we’ve lost mattered, and that we matter too.”

Dina Bell-Laroche, Grief Unleashed (2023)

It is inevitable that each of us will experience grief and loss at some point in our lives. And we will experience it in different and deeply personal ways that cannot be predicted or compared. 

Perhaps we have imagined or experienced the profound effects of loss in our personal life but how many of us stop to think about the ways grief will affect our work, our work relationships and our work environment?

I want to talk about grief in our profession, and introduce a very special book that may offer much-needed solace, understanding and guidance to those struggling with the loss of a colleague, client or trusted advisor.

How Can Grief Affect Advisors?

When a client passes away, advisors, who have formed strong bonds over the years, can feel the loss as deeply as if it were a family member. The advisor now faces the practical task of helping the family manage and transition the financial aspects of the client’s life, whilst simultaneously navigating their own personal and emotional grief.

When an assistant passes away, it can deeply affect both the advisor and the business. The advisor faces a dual challenge: coping with the emotional loss of a colleague and friend, while also having to take on the responsibilities that the assistant used to handle in the day-to-day operating of business. While the plethora of daily tasks may have been intuitive to the assistant, the advisor now must learn and manage them quickly during an already challenging time.

If an advisor has passed away, and another has bought a book of business from them, there are also many challenges to face. Many advisors are freelance and own their own businesses, so when one passes away unexpectedly there’s no infrastructure to support the business in the sudden absence of its head. There are no succession plans, provisions for continuity of care and service to clients, or backup advisors. The business has likely been sold quickly to ensure client retention. The new advisor now faces the task of supporting clients who previously had a strong or long-term relationship with an advisor who for many years was their trusted guide, if not friend. Many of these clients will find it hard to adjust and continue with a new advisor, particularly when the latter has not had the usual time and opportunity to introduce themselves, build relationships and establish trust.

How Can Grief Affect Clients and Colleagues?

When a client has lost a loved one either suddenly, or after a lengthy illness, the advisor has an opportunity to extend their care and support beyond the normal scope of business. The advisor must have a sympathetic outlook, and offer guidance on next steps to keep things secure and simple for the client. Professionally speaking, there may be changes needing to be made to wills, and attention to be paid to asset beneficiaries and management. But in addition to this and perhaps more importantly the advisor might want to consider reaching out as a trusted friend; thinking of special touches that let their client know they are not alone and that they are still supported.

A red circle with the words " 1 st step ".

When an advisor passes suddenly or after a long illness, the assistant mourns the loss of a close friend and long-term associate. Going back to a workplace tied to the memories of the departed advisor and friend is tough. Additionally, the assistant becomes the main support for the new advisor, who will be relying on them for information, documents and client contexts necessary for a smooth transition and client retention. It’s quite a unique challenge: facing the dual task of adapting to the absence of a beloved colleague whilst needing to remain focused and efficient for the new advisor!

A Different Type of Grief: Retirement

Retiring can be tough for some advisors. The bond they share with their clients runs deep, and the thought of leaving them all can tug at the heartstrings. It’s not merely a job they’re saying goodbye to; it’s a cherished community, an integral part of their identity, and a profound way of forging connections with the clients they’re leaving behind. 

A red circle with the words " 1 st step ".

Introducing ‘Grief Unleashed’ by Dina Bell-Laroche

Too often, our culture promotes a fear of death and dying. Grief Unleashed was born out of a deep desire to alleviate needless suffering, forge stronger connections, and inspire hope amidst life’s darkest moments. Author Dina Bell-Laroche knows from personal experience that it is by doing the necessary grief work that grievers become more resourced and feel less isolated.  Her book guides readers through their grief with empathy and experience, focusing on the three equally important tenets of anguishing, languishing and flourishing; each with their own value and reward as people journey through their most difficult moments, in their own unique ways.

As somebody who has personally experienced grief and sudden loss in both my personal life and my professional life in the financial services industry, I sincerely recommend this book as a support and comfort during the most difficult of times.

With you on the journey