The 8 worst things you can say to someone who is grieving

Ever found yourself tongue-tied when you are trying to comfort someone who is grieving.  Christy Heitger-Ewing, author and freelance writer, has written a worthwhile article on best things to say to those who are grieving. 

In this follow-up article, she warns us against the well-meaning things we say that actually have the opposite effect to the comfort we hope to achieve.

  1. “Cheer up. Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
    After my mom died, people told me that she would hate to see me carrying around such pain and that, to honor her memory, I should stop being sad. Sure, Mom liked to see me happy, but for a period of time after she died, I simply couldn’t be happy. When you love deeply, you grieve deeply. Grievers need to be sad in order to get to the other side of grief.
  1. “Focus on all the blessings in your life.”
    While this message is optimistic and all, it’s not really what a grieving person wants to hear when his world has just been shattered. Even if a griever appreciates the good things in his life, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s reeling from a monumental loss.
  1. “She’s/he’s in a better place.”
    But here’s the problem: if my mom is there, she can’t be here. And I want her here. Call me selfish, but I want her here beside me, holding my hand, offering advice, giggling, singing and doing that humming thing that only she could do.
  1. “It’s been awhile since he/she died. It’s time you get over it.”
    You know how a week zips by for you whereas a week, from a toddler’s perspective, feels like an eternity? That’s kind of how grief time works. It’s skewed. A grieving person can look at a calendar and see that “X” amount of time has passed since their loved one died, but time is irrelevant when it comes to healing a broken heart. You can’t put a timetable on grief. It is ridiculous to suggest that anyone should hurry up and “get over” losing someone close.
  1. “Cherish all of the wonderful memories. They will bring you peace.”
    I think this statement is true, in time. But the last thing a newly grieving person wants to hear is to cherish the memories. When their heart is hurting, their mind spinning and faith broken, thinking about old memories guts them because they want to create new memories, which they can no longer do.
  1. “Pull yourself together because you need to be there for your kids.”
    No one expects a patient to hop off of the operating table after undergoing heart surgery so that she can fix her kids dinner. So please don’t make a grieving parent feel even worse by suggesting that she’s neglecting her children due to her grief. That’s just cruel.

Grief affects every aspect of someone’s physical and emotional health. It interferes with one’s ability to sleep, eat, concentrate, and function. No one has the right to ask another person to swallow her pain to focus on others. Doing so only prolongs grief. Kristi Smith, author of Dream: A Guide to Grieving Gracefully, says that transformation comes from first taking care of oneself. “Choose to help yourself, so that you can then turn around and help others,” says Smith. It’s kind of like the oxygen mask rule in airplanes: ensure your own breath before assisting those around you.

  1. “So, how ‘bout them Broncos?”
    Though it seems like you’re doing the griever a favor by keeping conversations superficial, what grievers need is someone willing to let them be real, someone not afraid to talk about the tough stuff, the sad stuff, the human stuff. They need someone who will sit and listen and maybe even cry with them. This isn’t saying you must never discuss sports or the weather. Just keep in mind that real healing comes from some of the heavier conversations.
  1. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.”
    I would encourage you to do just that. Stop and think about how you would feel if you were faced with the griever’s circumstances. Consider their feelings. Contemplate their pain. Imagine their struggle. Doing so will spark empathy in you, the best thing you can offer someone who is hurting because when you empathise, the right words come more freely.

Read Christy Heitger-Ewing’s award-winning book Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat. Visit her author website at

The 8 best things you can say to someone grieving

I have found myself avoiding contacting grieving friends as I have been insecure about hurting them by what I say, or just unsure what to say at all. . I found this article by Christy Heitger-Ewing, freelance writer at the Huffington Post, a really useful guide to helping a friend while they are grieving. 

When someone close to you dies, you initially receive a good deal of advice and support. Some of it is helpful, some not. This piece by Christy Heitger-Ewing, writer for Huffington Post, offers suggestions for helpful things you can say to someone who is newly grieving.

  1. “I feel your pain.”
    This is not the same thing as, “I know how you feel,” which is a statement I would avoid uttering because even if you’ve shared a similar circumstance, everyone’s journey is uniquely their own. The words, “I feel your pain,” however, is an expression of empathy

In the book Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love: Daily Meditations to Help You Through the Grieving Process, authors Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside maintain that the words “I feel your pain” are the four most helpful words uttered to a grieving person.

“No other single sentence does more to break down walls of isolation formed by deep sorrow and regret. When those words are merged with a touch or an embrace, they mend the heart and lift up downcast eyes. They tell the griever he is not alone in his grief.”

  1. “How about a hug?”
    I get that not everyone is touchy-feeling, but when I was newly grieving, I felt starved for hugs. I wanted to hug the UPS man who came to my door, my spin instructor after class. I wanted to hug my neighbor and her little dog, too. It was almost as if I was a china doll broken into pieces, and every hug offered a smidge of glue to help piece me back together.

Two weeks after my mom died, my son had an overnight zoo trip, with my husband a chaperone. I packed them up and waved goodbye. As they pulled out, an intense sense of loneliness settled into my soul. I remember going through my phone contacts, calling neighbors until one answered. “Can you come over and give me a hug?” I asked.

I probably sounded pitiful, but that’s what I needed right then and there. A hug wasn’t going to take away all my pain, but it helped get me through that difficult moment.

  1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
    It’s direct. It’s honest. It gets to the point. It shows you care. Patti Fitzpatrick, a grief support facilitator and bereavement minister, notes, “Two simple but extremely helpful and healing solutions that anyone can do is to 1) show up, and 2) say, “I’m sorry for your loss. Period.”
  1. “I’m here for you.”
    Grief makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It’s hard to see someone you care about torn up emotionally. It’s natural to want to fix them, but that’s just not possible. The most helpful thing you can do is to offer to be there for someone hurting in whatever capacity they need.

Ben Keckler, the minister who runs my grief support group, explained this notion beautifully when he said, “When you’re grieving, you don’t want to be around people who will see through you. You want to be around people who will see you through.”

  1. “I’ll bring you some lasagna next Tuesday.”
    This is just an example. Offering to do something specific is an alternative to the usual phrase: “Let me know if you need anything.” People make this kind of open-ended gesture because they want to help and are not sure what the griever needs. But for those newly grieving, they often don’t know what they need, either — or they don’t have the energy to figure it out and then call you to request it.

That’s why it’s better to just make a specific offer like, “I’m headed to the grocery. I can bring you some milk and bread if you’d like.”

  1. “Would you like to talk about your loved one?”
    It’s natural to worry that bringing up the subject of the person who died, will make the griever sad. Actually, the opposite is true. When a person loses someone close to them, they continue to think about their loved one constantly. After several months have passed, the griever is astounded at how rarely people mention the person who died. It’s heartbreaking, really. So when you bring up a memory or share a story about the person who passed away, it lets the griever know others remember their loved one, too, and that’s really comforting.
  2. Ask, ‘How are you doing?’ Then really listen for the true answer.
    Making it clear that you’re asking for a real and honest answer and not just expecting the trite response of, “Oh, I’m fine,” promotes healing.

Keckler says that “fine” can be an acronym for “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional” – certainly an apt description for those who are newly grieving because their feelings truly are all over the map. Sorting through them can be difficult, so it’s nice to have people in their life with whom they can share their genuine feelings.

A few months into my grief, I had figured out who my “safe” people were. Through conversations and interactions, I could tell which of my friends were okay with my being my authentic self and which were not. The “safe” ones checked in with me regularly. They sat with me and let me cry. They didn’t mind when I called them sobbing so hard that they could barely discern a word I was saying. They let me share openly, and that’s what I needed.

  1. Say nothing.
    I’m not suggesting you avoid the grieving person or that you should pretend you don’t know their loved one has died. That behavior would be hugely hurtful. I’m suggesting that you not be afraid to close your mouth and open your heart. Hold their hand. Offer them a
    tissue. Make a pot of coffee. Ask if they’d like to go for a walk. Let them lead the conversation. Often the biggest gift you can give a grieving person is permission to speak freely.

Mitsch and Brookside write, “So many of us are taught not to talk about our wounds. We absorb the message, spoken or tacit, that ‘talking doesn’t help,’ ‘weeping doesn’t change things,’ ‘talking about it will just make you sad.’ None of those statements is true. Talking about our sorrow does not increase our sorrow; it purges our sorrow.”

Read Christy Heitger-Ewing’s award-winning book Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat. Visit her author website.

Prepare now for unexpected loss

This story, by Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Kathy Lithgow, serves as a reminder that loss comes unbidden and unanticipated.  While we cannot avoid the heartwrenching effects of grief, we can lessen the impact of its practical outcomes by planning for the unexpected.

Sheila and Bob had created a happy family, with two lovely children … and when a third came along much later, they celebrated the joys and dealt with the challenges of the large age gap.

The youngest, Brenda, was adored by her family and excelled at sport.  Sadly, the demands of adolescence drew her to drugs and her life spiralled out of control, despite numerous visits to rehab centres.  The worst happened when she succumbed to her addiction.

The unbearable grief took its toll:  Sheila was diagnosed with breast cancer, had surgery and gradually fought her way back to health.  Inspired by Bob’s cultivation of his favourite hobby – cooking – in retirement, Sheila also embraced her passion – teaching.

Because Sheila had experienced a scare with cancer, she assumed that she would be the first to die. This assumption was never discussed.  She lived her life out with this conclusion in her mind.

Bob, though somewhat overweight, had no serious health issues and hardly ever visited a doctor. One afternoon, feeling dreadful, he asked Sheila to take him to hospital. He was admitted immediately. In Sheila’s mind, this would be a short stay. Two days later, Bob passed away.

The shock of his passing was utterly devastating. The children were unhappy to leave their mom on her own (though their home was well secured) and spent a few nights with her. This simply wasn’t workable so they packed a few items and moved her to her daughter’s home. They altered a few things to give her some privacy and did the best they could. Their daughter worked all day and the distance to the house meant Sheila’s friends were reluctant to visit.

The grief and loneliness Sheila experienced made her desperately unhappy.  The children did the best that they could, finding a facility where she has all her meals prepared and it is safe. She is gradually starting to make friends.  Although she now seems more settled, I sense an underlying resentment about not having had a say in the decisions that were made on her behalf.

I have asked a number of my friends if they have ever had a discussion about a future without a spouse. It seems that many have thought privately about who is most likely to die first, but few have voiced their assumptions and discussed a plan for their future.

I am left with a sense of sadness that my friend is perhaps not in the best place she could have been; she is still young at heart and more than capable. It seems that she is somehow stuck in a place with little to challenge her brain or keep her busy, she is just busy … growing old.

Here are some discussions that I have considered valuable to have, even with yourself:

  • “What if this happened to me?”
  • What kind of place would you want to live in, were you on your own? Would your family be happy for you to live there?
  • What can you do to avoid losing your grip on daily things?
  • How far along is your plan for such changes in your life?

When grieving comes home

Chartered client, Ronelle Baker, reflects on her grieving process at the loss of a very close friend.  She shares her story in the hope of helping others experiencing the same pain of loss.

So when you’re battling through grief, you are told about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. What you’re not told is that once you’re through one of these stages, it’s not yet done … any particular stage can come back and wring your heart all over again!

A story of past and recent loss and grief

29 years ago, I lost my mother to ovarian cancer.  At the time, I was working hard towards becoming a successful businesswoman and felt that “we can get through this”. Of course that did not happen.   

On the death of my mother, the grief “stage” that would not release was anger.  I was mad as a snake that she’d died: diagnosed on Tuesday, died on Sunday but she had battled the disease silently for years. So, while her passing was probably a “happy release” (an unhelpful phrase), that did not ease the pain at the time.

My Mom died in Zimbabwe, so after the gathering of the family and the funeral, lots of tea, cake, crying, reminiscing, clearing out a home and settling my Dad elsewhere, life eventually returned to “normal”.

But, in grief, normal is not normal at all.

My husband, family and friends helped where they could, but were all walking on eggs around me to prevent whatever it was that I was holding onto did not explode and leave a mess everywhere!

Eventually my devoted husband could take no more of this. My family, friends and work colleagues had complained of my unusual behaviour and lack of empathy and I sought help.   It was a revelation – I was taught to throw cups against the wall (they had to smash for it to be effective – it worked!).  I was able to release the anger and start the grieving process in peace.

Fast forward to December 2016

My dear friend, Judy, died. She’d also been battling with ovarian cancer for about 18 months.   I witnessed with admiration her bravery, determination and feistiness.  Although her health deteriorated rapidly from month to month, she managed to undertake a few trips, but they took their toll on her.  Nothing would dissuade her from getting on a plane and flying to busy and crowded destinations – even to the point of arranging her chemo sessions to suit her trips, and managing trips between surgeries – such absolute resolve was impressive.

I was gobsmacked as I watched her fight this terrible disease, and full of awe at her family and friends.  The oncology staff, hospital staff, and surgeons always had Judy’s best interests at heart.

Until we’ve been with a friend or relative on an almost daily basis, watching her fade away, I don’t think any of us understands what a toll cancer takes on a body.  Judy persevered and, at the end of her life, flew to the coast (with tubes and bags discreetly hidden in a plastic shopping bag at the airport) to spend the last five weeks of her life with her family.

For me personally, it was a heart-breaking time but such an honour and privilege to be part of Judy’s journey.

Finding a healed heart

The difference between today’s grieving and that of 1988 is that I now am aware of the five stages of grief, and that they do pop up when you least expect.  It’s sometimes tricky to identify them in the midst of our daily lives, but talking about it often helps … and tearfully if necessary. Having support from my husband, family and friends is healing, and understanding the process this time has definitely helped.

My story is one of understanding and support. I know the five stages of grief are real and yes, they do bite you when you least expect them, but having the ability now to identify them, to go through grief gently, slowly and respectfully, means you will come through and, in the end, know you are blessed for being in the lives of the people that you love.

Repacking your relationship bag …

Lighten your load for the good life

In their book, Repacking your Bags, authors Richard Leider and David Shapiro suggest that relationships fall into patterns from which neither party seems able to escape.  “ … For most of us, they just take on the form of habit, unspoken expectation, and, slowly but surely eroded trust.”

The following extract from their book explores what it means to be “fully unpacked” in your relationships with others.

Admittedly, it’s not always like this, but it happens all too often.  Look around – or within – and you’ll find a deep well of despair in the area of human relationships.  Here’s an arena in which our hopes and dreams exceed our capabilities. We have the ability to experience these overwhelming emotions, but not the skill to experience these overwhelming emotions, but not the skill to manage them.  It’s as if we’ve the keys to emotional Ferraris, but never learned to drive.  Is it any wonder so many of us crash and burn?

If you were to put every one of our motivations – to make money, become famous, conquer the world, whatever – into a big pot and boil them down, they’d all reveal the same essence – we want to be loved. It’s trite but true.

So we keep packing more and more into our lives, all in a desperate attempt to get friends, families, even perfect strangers to love us. Ironically, we need to do just the opposite.

We need to unpack.

We need to open our hearts and minds, and put into words our innermost thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, desires.  Only by overcoming our fear of exposure can we truly be seen.

How do we fully unpack?

Sidney Jourard, in his classic book, The Transparent Self, predicted that people who love deeply would live longer. His theory was that if we revealed ourselves to each other, we would live healthier, more vital lives, with less disease, less dis-ease.

George Vaillant studied a large group of male Harvard alumni over more than 40 years following their graduations from college.  Part of the research was designed to determine what factors separated the healthy grads from the unhealthy ones.  Who had become diseased or disabled; who had died?

Vaillant disclosed the startling findings in his book, Adaptation to Life.  It turned out that neither diet, nor exercise, nor overall fitness was the critical factor – the single most important key to health and well-being was self-disclosure.

Individuals in Vaillant’s healthy group reported the presence in their lives of at least one ‘nutritious’ person – someone with whom they could consistently share their thoughts and feelings openly.  For some, it was their spouse, for others (even married), it was a friend or work colleague.

The most common reasons we hear for people ‘keeping a bag by the door’ (metaphorically, ready to leave the relationship), include:

  • “She’s not interested in what I care about.”
  • “He doesn’t get it. And he’s not interested in listening to me.”
  • “She’s too busy – there’s no time.”
  • “I feel invisible around him.”

Sidney Jourard claims that each of us has within ourselves the potential for “courageous conversation” – self-disclosure – hundreds of times every day.

All relationships with others mirror our relationship with ourselves. Feelings that are ‘buried alive’ rise from the grave to haunt us with illness and dis-ease. Developing better relationships with friends and loved ones means developing a better relationship with ourselves.

When we keep our relationship bags packed, we lose touch with others and ourselves.

In order to really connect with another person, we need to understand and embody transparency. We need to be able to disclose our innermost secrets and reveal our true selves. We need to be willing to see other people for who they are, too. And this means having the courage to not only speak our truths, but to listen, as well.

Most people, when they’re less than completely satisfied in a relationship – whether it’s a romance, a friendship, even a business association – think that if only they could get the other person to reveal a bit more about themselves, then everything would work out. In fact, the only trick – and it’s not really a trick at all
– to deeper, more meaningful relationships, is to reveal yourself.

What trips people up is that, often, they have no courage for self-revelation, and no vocabulary to describe who they
are and what they’re looking for in life. Practising “courageous conversation” is one way to go about getting these.  Developing the habit of authentic dialogue with others can go a long way toward letting them see who you really are
and what you need for emotional satisfaction.

V is for vulnerable this Valentine’s Day

Women want love; men want respect. That’s the sentiment represented in the book, Love and Respect, by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. What Eggrichs suggests is that women have a need to feel loved, men, to feel respected.

I’ve seen it myself over the years. Whether those specifics are true for every woman and man, I don’t know. But what I do know is that even though people have different needs, we do, in fact, need.

Being in relationship – whether with a spouse, children, other family or friends – is what life is all about. Relationships can be safe spaces but they can also be places of pain. Pain is what causes us to pull back to protect ourselves. All of us have opted, at some time or another, for self-protection above vulnerability.

And yet the need doesn’t go away, does it? We want to connect, to relate. We don’t just want to live together. We want to be alive together. That’s why we get disappointed when relationships fail. Disappointment is the flipside of the dream. This Valentine’s Day, my desire for us is that we get back to dreaming. And do you know where dreams can become real? Right in the hardest place of all: vulnerability.

So, V is for vulnerable this Valentine’s Day. Spending meaningful time together, almost in ritualistic routine, can be a wonderful way to connect with those you love. One couple I know – married for nearly 50 years – told me that the secret to their success was sharing a bottle of wine together every night. That’s how they’ve been bringing each day to a close, 48 years in. Is it about the wine? Absolutely not. Because another couple I know don’t share a bottle of wine. They share a bath. And another couple? Dessert. Every single night.

So what’s the real secret here? I think that it’s the sharing. Sharing a bottle of Merlot – and about your day. Sharing your heart as you put your head on a reassuring shoulder while the bath water runs cold. It’s meaningful moments that allow for connection with those we love. And in those moments, we open ourselves to the possibility of vulnerability, to the possibility of intimacy.

You might have a ritual and not even know it. Is it long walks together, your Golden Retriever in tow – walking and talking as the leaves fall around you in autumn? Or as the world turns back to green in spring?

Close your eyes for a few minutes and see if you have something like this in your life right now. Whatever your ritual is, see it and cherish it. And if don’t have one, then start one this year. It’s not too late. On Valentine’s Day, we’re so busy writing in Valentine’s cards that we forget to turn those words into action. Don’t let Hallmark choose your words for you. Find a moment to tell your loved one what they mean to you. And watch how that moment turns to meaningful.

And if you’ve shared a great love and your partner is no longer with you, then what a gift you were given. Cherish those memories. And then make new ones by finding places – and people – for vulnerability.

Happy Vulnerability Day to you!

Are you a human doing or a human being

We have become so conditioned, so used to the thinking in a way that says, “Do this and you will be able to …”. This gives us the impression that it is by doing something that we will achieve something. Multimillion dollar training empires have been built on this philosophy.

Such companies have made millions, probably billions, telling people what they should do. In the case of skills training, one cannot fault this argument, as skills are something you have to be taught to do.

But doing is only half of what’s needed to be a leader of significance and authority, someone who enjoys respect and influence by who and what they are and not only what they do.

Leaders who are still stuck in Newtonian thinking battle with this. That’s probably 90% of the world’s leaders in government, business and other organisations. Newtonian thinking has dominated our collective consciousness for the past 300 years so it is no wonder that most leaders think this way.

Newtonian thinking is based on a mechanical model which treats everything as machines which follow a step by step linear way of doing things. A “how to” manual is an excellent example of Newtonian thinking because it says that by following certain steps, you will be able to do something.

While this has been valid until now to explain most things, humanity has evolved to the point where Newtonian, mechanical, thinking is no longer enough.

Doing (mechanics) is no longer enough to make a successful leader. Today, we are starting to understand that it’s not only what we do but what we are (our being) that influences and creates the reality we experience.

In the past, leaders could be whatever they wished to be – often not very nice people – so long as what they did was the right thing. It’s now no longer good enough for leaders to be competent at what they do. They have to be something worthy of leadership as well.

Of course, its’ from our being that our doing, or actions, flow. Learning what a leader should do may help you get the job if you’re being hired by people who have not progressed past Newtonian thinking, but it will not help you for long. Very soon, the people you are leading will see what you are and will respond to that.

Look at politicians who think they’re doing the right things at the moment (in their eyes). You have not for one moment been fooled by what they do because you have looked instead at what they are. We say that actions speak louder than words, but what we are speaks louder than our actions.

If, therefore, you wish to become a leader of authority and influence, don’t focus only on the “how to” steps of leadership. Start also focusing on the “beingness” of leadership. Ask yourself what you need to be as a good leader then develop; those qualities, those states of being, in yourself.

Instead of worrying about doing, prioritise being because it’s from what we are that our actions flow. More simply put, it’s what’s inside that comes out. If you kick over a jar of honey, honey will flow out. If you kick over a jar of acid, acid will flow out. It’s what’s inside that comes out.

What’s inside you? Fear, hostility, greed? That’s what will come out and determine your actions as a leader. If it’s love, kindness and generosity, that’s what will come out and determine your actions for all the world to see.

I urge you to start focusing on improving what you are (your being) and you will find that your actions will follow!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

Mindful relationships: 10 ground rules to being present

If you often find your attention wandering while someone is chatting to you, these tips offer practical ways in which to listen more mindfully.  Medical writer, Elaine Fantle Shimberg, says that relationship problems stem 454from poor communication.  “You can’t communicate while you’re checking your phone, watching TV, or flipping through the sports section.”

If simple distraction, not something deeper, is keeping you from really hearing all your partner has to say, learning to be present will enhance your communication skills and your life. Alexandra Frey and Autumn Totton of the Mindfulness Project, offer ground rules for becoming more present and mindful. You can find other great resources for life, work and relationships at

Be right here right now. Anytime you’re swept away in thoughts of the past or future, gently bring yourself back to the present moment by focusing on an anchor, such as your breath, a part of your body (like the space between your eyebrows or how your feet feel on the ground), or sounds.

Be aware when you judge. Practise paying attention to your thoughts and the judgements your mind tends to make. Don’t try to stop or resist them; just curiously notice them, then usher them out. Become aware of how often you judge others and yourself. Awareness of your tendency to judge is the first step to stopping it.

Practise patience. Be willing to see how your experience with mindfulness unfolds. Be patient with yourself when it’s uncomfortable and your mind wants to rush to the next item on your list. It’s just the wandering nature of your mind: bring patience, affection and a sense of humour to the task.

Be kind to yourself. Mindfulness allows you to recognise some painful thoughts and emotions. When you do, be compassionate toward yourself, just as you would be to a friend having a rough time. Try looking at everything with a new sense of curiosity, and stay open to discovery. That’s when real surprises and magic happens.

Find beginner’s mind. Sometimes the mind likes to think it has seen all there is to see and knows all it needs to know. Try looking at everything with a new sense of curiosity; stay open to discovery. That’s when real surprises and magic happens.

Begin to trust. Tune into your own basic wisdom and intuition; this doesn’t mean always trusting your thoughts. Mindfulness will help you see that thoughts come, go and change.

Don’t strive. Sometimes we hope mindfulness will solve problems or improve ourselves. Wanting things to be different can be an obstacle to truly experiencing mindfulness. Mindfulness is not about being somewhere else, but being with what’s here now.

Try acceptance. Accept that things are the way they are in each moment – that doesn’t mean they won’t change or can’t be changed. When we desperately want things in our lives to be different than they are, we feel pain – it’s that resistance that leads to suffering. If you can stop railing against the way things are (your boss is an idiot, your partner steals the covers) you can calm your emotions, allowing you to be more present.

Let go. Practise releasing ideas and thoughts that cling; let go of the desire for things to be a certain way. Note what it feels like in your body when you cling versus when you let go.

Commit. Mindfulness is a practice, but it’s not just meditation. You can take mindfulness into all aspects of your life. As with every significant life change, the work is yours and yours alone. By becoming a better listener, you become a better co-worker, parent, friend, partner. Before you can use mindfulness to improve communication, become a confident practitioner yourself. Make a commitment to meditating and mindfulness as a way of living/being.


What could we expect our leaders to do?

Whether in the world of work, politics or sport, the term “leadership” has become a status symbol. Everybody wants to be known as a leader, regardless of whether they have the qualities and skills to be a leader, or whether they are in a leadership position or not.

These misplaced expectations have resulted in people ending up in leadership positions who have not the faintest idea of what leaders are supposed to do. Once they are placed in a leadership position, therefore, their energies and efforts are directed at keeping the position – at all costs.

Leadership then becomes synonymous with “power” and no-one wants to lose power once they’ve acquired it. We should then be referring to such people as people in positions of power and not in positions of leadership.

To hang onto their power, they will try to please whoever it is they think will help keep them in power. They will spend days, weeks and months plotting against those they perceive to be threats to their power. They will avoid making any decisions that are not central to their efforts to retain power.

And while all of this is happening, mostly behind the scenes, the people, companies, divisions or departments they should be leading wait for direction and guidance to be provided, to no avail. Leaders who are only in it for the power will never be able to overcome their desire and drive to serve themselves first.

With so many leaders not doing what they should be doing, we’ve almost forgotten what good leaders are expected to do, so here are three reminders of what good leaders do …

Leaders inspire
One of the first things we could expect a good leader to do is inspire others with a compelling vision of a better future, whether it be for a country, a community or a company. After all, if a leader can’t lead us somewhere better than where we are right now, what’s the point of having them?

Not only should leaders be able to articulate a vision of a better future, but they should also be able to inspire people to embrace a worthy cause. A cause is what energises people to take action to help achieve that better future. Don’t underestimate the power of a cause. Without a cause, you get only reluctant effort, but people will die for a cause they believe in.

As a leader, do you inspire people with a vision of the future and with a cause?

Leaders collaborate
A true leader gets things done through other people. That’s the nature of leadership. It’s not about the proverbial one-man-band. A leader who is unable to collaborate will struggle to achieve anything of significance. Good leaders can collaborate across disciplines, cultures, generations and agendas in order to get things done.

Their collaboration will result in a common purpose, a united effort and a shared result. It will involve not only talking but listening, reflecting and responding appropriately. Collaboration is about involving and including people in the master plan, about inclusivity rather than exclusivity.

As a leader, do you make use of collaboration?

Leaders innovate
Believe it or not, one of the key things leaders are required to do is innovate. Innovating refers to introducing something new or doing something in a new way. One of the ways leaders take people to a better reality, is through introducing something new or doing things in new ways to achieve different results.

That doesn’t mean that leaders have to come up with all the new ideas themselves. It does however mean that they give those who can come up with new ideas the freedom and support to do so.

As a leader do you innovate?

There are many other things we could expect from leaders but if they just managed to get these three things right, imagine what the world would look like …

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine,, @HRFuturemag, and a professional speaker. He assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery so that they can live and lead with greatness.

Money’s role in relationships

As our adult children experience growing financial stress – or the pressure of sustaining a lifestyle comparable to that of their neighbours, the answer is not as simple as parents stepping in to ‘fix’ financial woes. Sometimes we need to step back and assess what is best for our family – each situation is unique, and it is all about meaning and balance. 
Offspring Obligation?
Your financial plan is on track: you have saved and budgeted for a lifetime and are ready to enjoy your retirement, with enough to fund it.  But … there is a snag – your reluctance to relinquish a particular role you have been playing for years: your children’s provider, even if those children are now income-generating adults.

As a retiremeant specialist, I have encountered many clients with grown-up children who still rely on their parents financially. Recently, I had to consolidate my thoughts on this issue as I was invited to contribute to an article by Lorraine Kearney in Personal Finance (click here to read the full article).

My conclusion is this: for the most part, you are not advantaging your adult children in any way by enabling them to rely on you for financial support … and, you are putting your own future financial well-being at risk.

Our responsibility as planners at Chartered is to ensure that our clients have sufficient money to see them comfortably through their retirement – thereby not becoming a burden to their families in the future.

Sometimes, we see clients with just enough money for that purpose, and our role is to invest it properly and encourage our clients to stick to their plans … but emotions are very much a part of relationships and parents find it difficult to see their children having to weather the vicissitudes of life:  wanting a home and needing a deposit; sudden unemployment; the effects of divorce; or, sadly, an alcohol or a drug dependency.

As a mother of three, I know that our unconditional love for our children means we more readily give to them than to ourselves.

As a financial planner, however, I know I best fulfil my role by being objective where my clients sometimes cannot be: not being emotionally involved allows us to see the consequences of our clients’ decisions.  We are respectful in this and realise that the final choice rests with our clients.

Additional assets
Sometimes clients have additional assets, and the discussion then centres around the legacy that they will leave – the children will inherit substantially.  Two courses of action lie ahead for the client who is aware of not taking away the recipients’ sense of worth and need to prove themselves. Parents then still want their children to inherit in the future, rather than when they are still shaping their financial independence.

Alternatively, I encourage clients to spend money creating experiences: that family holiday you have always dreamed of – go ahead, make some wonderful memories; your involvement in your grandchildren’s education – yes, pay the school fees if you wish, but also share some of your passion for, say, nature, by teaching them bird names.

Whatever the clients’ approach, I am a strong advocate of adult children being involved in financial conversations. This way, they learn the skills to manage money to set them up for future prosperity. The thought required for robust discussions are valuable to each member and ensures your financial plan gives your money more meaning.