Grief is….

In some ways It’s amazing how little I feel I’ve come since my last post. Oh how many things still feel the same. Grief is, as it happens, turning out to be far more complicated than I imagined. The blog I wrote shortly after my parents deaths "When those you love are killed" just poured out of me. Almost un-fettered virtually no editing (save for a few typos). When it comes to collecting my thoughts on how I feel now, it is much harder. Things are much messier.

It’s just turned August the 19th. They died on July the 19th. Officially a month. Technically Mum passed in the wee small hours of the 20th. But to all intents and purposes her life came to a screeching halt along side Dad on July the 19th at 5pm British Summer Time in a layby on the A303.

http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/13489669.Tributes_to_former_charity_chief_and_his_wife_after_fatal_accident/?ref=rss

http://www.marlboroughnewsonline.co.uk/features/people/obituaries/4601-john-judith-woodget

As my mother and fathers lives ended the lives of many, many people changed. Jolted, these lives shot off in other directions. For my sisters and our spouses it was particularly pronounced. As it was for our aunts and uncles and my paternal grandmother.

Grief is complicated

As you work through the experience of grief it evolves, shifts, changes, it grows. It’s like a thought virus that is taking over your entire system, and changing it. This is why it’s so important to tackle it, head on. It’s a long road and if you don’t travel it you can do irreparable damage.

You have sorrow, the pain and the loss. There are your memories of what was. There is the future that is stolen away from you. There is the extraordinary kindness and compassion shown by other people. There is fear and guilt and bucket loads of "What Ifs". Behind all of these things lies a deep pool of thought, ideas and feelings. With grief you are juggling all of this. And more.

Then of course there is this slow dawning realization… Long after you logically "get" that your loved one(s) have gone (trust me, to begin with you’ll settle for it all being some sort of sick joke). The realization is that you get to a place where you start to understand that because they are gone that the relationship is gone. If you are religious you can image them watching over you, of being with them at some point in the future. And you don’t need religion to talk to them, as if they were there. Then there is the decades of advice and ideas and memories of them speaking to you – and you can hear much of that when you close your eyes. But at the end of they day they are gone and it is no longer a two way street. It’s all in the past.

I’ve been going through that this week. It’s things like this which are a constant wake up call for the length of this road. This process. This experience. This grief.

Grief is Pain, Grief is Loss

It’s a "pass the parcel" of deep darkness and tears. You keep on chugging until the music stops and then you are forced to open your package of grief and confront what is inside. You cry until you can’t breath. You have "moments" and find yourself on the front porch, not knowing what you had been doing or how you got there. Your wife had wondered where you were. She found you breathless, aching, exhausted. These moments still happen. They no longer happen literally every five minutes, like they did in the first week. But they happen none-the-less. When they do happen they are just as arresting and just as effective at bringing you to grinding grinding halt.

When I "have a moment" I’m not breaking down. I’m lighting up, with grief. My tears are gifts of grief and if you are with me when I experience this it is my way of sharing with you what I am going through. Thank you for the hugs, they help. They really do.

We are all in this together. None of us get out alive. (I’m mashing up Gabby Young and Foo Fighters lyrics with that one).

We are all going to go through this in some way shape or form. I understand it’s not selfish to recognize that this has forced me into the membership of a particularly horrible, painful club; losing two parents, two WONDERFUL grandparents to four little boys, people that formed the heart of a very close, loving family, losing them both at once, in a tragic accident, so soon after they were embarking on a fantastic new phase of their lives. I’d never wish this on anyone.

We all lose those we love and we all die. It’s the immutable commonality that we share as humans.

Maybe the fact we all share this is what brings us together to share tears when loss happens. Tapping into the reservoir of our common humanity.

We really are all in this one this together.

Photos. Music. Videos. Tonight I watched my mum sing me happy birthday for the very last time. When my parents visited last October I captured some poignant moments on film. Including my birthday. Replete with singing and cake. My father had grabbed the camera and I was able to see myself and my mother share a happy, carefree moment. One which we thought we would have another 10, 20 or even more of.

Sufficed to say… I had a moment.

Grief is Love

People. Oh my goodness. You are awesome. Every last one of you. You are beautiful, kind, generous, giving and loving. Some of you are close to me and are able to swim deep with me into my pain. Others only paddle with me in the surf for a few moments. You might hold my hand for hours as we plumb the depths or you might simply stop by and touch my palm as we feel the spray of the surf splashed upon us.

All of it is love. All of it is appreciated. All of it helps.

I want to say; Thank You. From the bottom of my heart. I feel lucky, touched, moved, to be a part of a species that is capable of such tender emotion and care.

No matter how hard your day gets, or how dark your night. Please know that if you have interacted with me in this journey you have shed at least a little light on me. You helped me, a fellow human being. You are important. You are meaningful and you have purpose. I love you and I appreciate you and I hope we can both always recognize the importance of the human connection.

Grief is the Future

The moment this happened I knew things would never be the same. OK, that’s not entirely true. The moment this happened I was a wreck. I literally couldn’t breath. I wouldn’t breath until I so desperately needed oxygen I wretched and sucked in air. There was a void because the screaming and crying had pushed out all that was in my lungs.

I digress…

Shortly after this happened I knew things would never be the same again. I had experienced a shift in my world. It was tectonic. The great irony is that after reading that blasted New Yorker article on the destruction of Seattle due to a mega quake I had finally put our family emergency plan together. Sufficed to say my life’s real emergency evaded planning. And being your average human I also hadn’t thought, or wanted to think, that deeply about the possibility of my parents untimely demise. Heck, they flew so much I was far more worried about them perishing in a plane crash! Either way the tectonic shift I experienced ended up being in my heart and it was long and drawn out, a sustained 9.5 on the Richter scale of my being.

I know things will be different. How much so I have no idea. It could be a simple different approach to life. I’ve already resolve that I will Question more and do so with Compassion and Kindness. I work in a corporation, the politics are rife. Life is short. We need to work hard and have fun and do the right thing collectively. Alternatively, and as my manager said "You might decide you want to quit and go full time as a photographer". He has been and continues to be immensely supportive. It’s also worth noting the culture (which is driven by people and purpose) at Microsoft has been warm, kind and patient. I’m very grateful for this. And I’m grateful that I don’t work at, for example, Amazon, based on what I saw in this article and what I’ve heard from friends who work there. For the record I have friends who work there who enjoy what that culture demands. All I can say is I feel grateful to work for a company that has a culture that highly values the human "assets" that make it up. Like Mr. Price my headmaster said at our first assembly at St. Johns in 1989 – "Look around you. The people sitting next to you. The teachers up here and all around. That is the school. You are the school. It’s not the building or the bricks or the play fields. It is you, it is the people." I’m grateful to work in a culture that values people. That values humanity.

It is people who have given me strength through all of this.

When I try look at it the future looks bleak. A world without two of the most important, staring "roles" in my life’s movie. Their lives cut so tragically short. It forces me to appreciate the moment we inhabit even more. And it makes me passionate about pursuing a sustainable moment. To fight for things that maintain an ongoing appreciation of everything we have in the now in a way that will give us and our children in the future a continual and beautifully sustainable moment.

Because quite frankly it could all be over in an instant.

Grief is finding your purpose

Over the years I’ve worked hard to try and crystalize my purpose. I’ve done it as a way to help guide me on this journey. Here is a very powerful way to do so. Suffice to say going through all this has brought this pursuit back into stark focus.

My updated purpose in life is as follows; Family man. Creator. Helps people connect, collaborate and grow. Challenges the status quo. Questions with compassion and kindness.

I believe most of us half choose, half stumble through and into where we are in life. We can feel like we "sort of ended up here by mistake". I’m learning that this is a common feeling. You know, it’s OK. We are messy, complicated, screwed up animals. But we are beautiful, caring, and compassionate too. This experience has drawn into focus the sheer volume of feelings which I’d once thought were just me and how they are in fact very common indeed. I’m grateful for that. It make me feel more connected with all of the lovely people I come across, every day. I have no regrets. Everything I’ve done has led me to this point. As far as moving forwards is concerned; being intentional, pursuing my values and being true to myself, all of this will become critical as I move through and on and past this grieving process – I have no illusions on the length of this journey.

And as my grief councilor said "all you have to worry about now is driving home". I’ll worry about the big stuff later. One thing however is for sure, I will be giving it, and myself, the attention it deserves.

P.S. Here are the photos that we showed at the ‘party’ after the funeral (missing a few from my sisters).

When those you love are killed

It’s been five days since they died. Since they were killed. Both of them. My loving parents who I was very close with. As were my sisters. As were our spouses. They adored and were worshiped by their grandchildren. They are gone forever. There will be no new memories made. They are now in the past.

It’s unbearably painful.

Floods of emotion

At first even breathing was impossible. I learned to do that again. It’s like that with everything now.

They say time heals all wounds. It’s hard to believe that at this moment.

What is it like to learn to cope with such a tragic loss? It is as if all my sadness and fear and tears are kept shut behind a door. The problem is that all of my memories of my parents are also behind that door. I crouch down and peak through the key hole. Sometimes I see sadness. Sometimes I remember. Sometimes I smile.

Smiling seemed impossible a few days ago.

Sometimes the door get’s kicked open.

Sometimes it’s mum. Sometimes it’s dad. Sometimes both together.

They come bursting from behind the door in a flood of emotion.

The thought of dealing with reality right now is unbearable. I’ve become intimately aware that whilst grieving one has to manage things like a funeral and the execution of a will and estate.

It’s exhausting. Literally.

Walking beside us

Wise people have said to me that you never get over the loss of a loved one. In this case two loved ones, lost in a tragic accident. They say that you learn to integrate the loss into your life. That it becomes a part of you. Once I heard it described that as your heart heals you will have them walk beside you.

They will live on through us; in our DNA and in what we know about them “Dad would totally say that”, “Mum would not be happy with that!” In this future they are there, with us. Living on through our memories of them. There are glimpses of this comfort. Then we slip back into sorrow.

Grief is a journey we must take. Whilst seeking to celebrate their lives.

Tributes

If I could be half of what either my Mother or Father were then I will have achieved a great thing.

Their love knew no bounds. The community and beyond benefited from their warmth and generosity. The outpouring of grief and support has been a chorus of broken hearts. We deeply appreciate everything everyone has done from simple “I’m sorry” to hugs to friends going above and beyond to help with everything from driving, cars, airport runs, food, cooking. I honestly don’t know what we would do without you.

For those kind enough to make a gift we would be honored if you could make it to the charity my father was chairperson of, The Wiltshire Community Foundation – and specifically to the  “John and Judith Woodget Fund“. They would have been “tickled pink” by any donations that helped them help others despite them not being around to explicitly help any more. A fitting tribute to their lives.

Love

I love you mum and dad. I will forever.

Below is a picture of my beloved parents on their 40th Wedding Anniversary in 2013. Mum is wearing her wedding dress.

This image is from my personal collection and is copyright © Matthew Woodget 2013  all rights reserved and reproduction completely prohibited. Family and friends of course can contact me for a copy.

Woodget-130811-308--Woodget-X2

Are you prepared for the destruction of Seattle?

earthquakeLast night I read the New Yorker article entitled “The Quake That Will Devastate Seattle”. I made the mistake of reading this about 15 minutes before I planned to go to bed. Three hours later I had taken our rather anemic to-do list of an emergency plan and pimped it beyond all recognition.

First and foremost and if you take nothing else away from this conversation is WATER, WATER, WATER. Even after a small event nowhere near the scale of a Cascadian Fault Full Margin Rip will see cut off water supplies. My brother-in-law, a firefighter advises that; we go through 2 gallons a day. Have enough for 5 days. That’s 20 gallons for a family of four. And it’s best to be on the safe side. They are a family of 3 and keep 30 gallons just in case. They change it with the seasons, and the fire alarm batteries. You can also get long term storage and simple chemical treatment to enable that. Some emergency planning experts even recommend planning for as much as 7-10 days.

The article is very well written, considering it’s shock value. It’s not the only resource. In Full-Rip 9.0: The Next Big Earthquake in the Pacific Northwest more detail and insights are provided far beyond what an op-ed piece can muster.

As I read through the FEMA emergency list (and their additional emergency supplies list) I browsed through Amazon adding items to a ‘wish list’. Additionally I searched for ‘emergency kit’ and looked at a variety of items from kits and other useful things. I have some wish-list trimming to do…

In regards to kits; there are pre-built options out there that often come in a handy bag. However much of the contents of these is perishable so if you purchase them you will need to plan to replenish some items. Or you can build your own. A friend tipped me off to Costco’s options, these are mind blowing. After some research and recommendations I also discovered USA Emergency Supply which has a comprehensive set of resources.

At the end of the day it’ll all boil down to personal preference.

The FEMA advice is sound; not least of which it goes beyond the consumables, gadgets and commodities being sold under the ‘emergency kit’ banner. The basics are also important; from tooth brushes, garbage bags (and zip ties), to wipes, sun block, plates/utensils and so forth.

Communications plans are also very important. Having an out of town contact that your whole family can contact is useful as communication in the area is often challenging.

The science is sound. The reality is that something really big can and will happen. We just never know when. We are much more likely to have a “big one” vs. a “really big one”. I.E. an 8.2 magnitude vs. 9.0. for the latter we may want to consider more extreme planning; multiple locations in your home of emergency food/water, additional equipment (shovels, knives, portable wood burning stoves) and so forth. For a “big one” we still need to make sure we secure the basics.

Other matters considering is tying down tall furniture and retrofitting your foundation for earthquakes.

The spectrum goes from completely unprepared to survivalist. We are working on figuring out exactly what we need and have accelerated our planning.

Good luck – and please do share your thoughts and advice on emergency planning!

Personal at Scale

I recently posted two blogs on LinkedIn all about the importance of both automation in marketing and the human element.

In  Machine Learning Magic & the Intelligent app Revolution I covered the amazing power of targeting and interaction that can be unleashed by Machine Learning “ML” and provide some commentary on the state of that industry and what companies who want to knock it out of the park will need to do.

In You Can’t Automate Trust (aka “Personal Marketing at Scale”) I dig into the importance of the human factor in the Customer Action equation. There are unique and brilliant aspects of the human mind that are not being commoditized… not just yet, and by all measures not for some considerable time.

Customer Action = (Authenticity + Engagement + Relevance) * Trust

What do you think about the future of marketing? Where does automation and technology win and where do humans add irrevocable value?

5 Recommendations on Marketing Innovation

What happened to June? OK this is June’s posting a bit late Smile

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  1. Creativity Article by PBS – Creativity isn’t all about painting, music or "the arts"! This is a detailed read but worth it. Resources to help you better understand many of the facets of creativity and how to better apply it to your life
  2. Be an entrepreneur without quitting your job – This is a great article on our ability to apply an entrepreneurial mindset within the companies or corporations we work within. Which can be very rewarding!
  3. The C-Suite needs a chief entrepreneur – Love this concept. For companies to continue to innovate and grow they must have a growth mindset. What better way than to have someone at the top who is helping land that culture and mission?
  4. How IoT will help marketing – Nice article on how IoT can help with the aspects of identity and thus help marketers in the brave new world we are entering.
  5. Stop using marketing personas, use stories, use characters – this article breaks down the reasons for the problem with using personas. An affect that can cause problems across your organization as people try fill in the missing story gaps.

5 Recommendations on Marketing Innovation

In this monthly series I share hot leads on cool posts .

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  1. Want to Be A Better Marketer? Act Like A Startup Founder – I can’t recommend this article enough. Being able to pivot, be flexible and try new things is critical. Imagination is the most important form of intelligence for marketers. Those and other traits happen to be akin to the traits of Startup Founders.
  2. How to target influencers on Twitter… and get them to share your content! – The importance of twitter continues to grow. So how can you make the most of it. This article is critical for startups and an invaluable resource for corporate marketers
  3. 10 ways our data overlords could serve us better – Marketing your business increasingly relies on data. I loved this article because of what it means not just for new business models but also for the opportunities for marketers to make the most of the sea of data we are now swimming in.
  4. Fitbit, Smartphones, and an Integrated Work Environment – Innovation is as much about how you approach work as what you do when you work. In this article friend and colleague Jeremy Epstein SMO of Sprinklr shares some ideas on how to literally get away from your desk whilst still staying productive.
  5. The Corporate Storytelling series on LinkedIn by Kevin Susman and myself In 4 parts

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