I’m not great at celebrating with parties. Mostly because I’m enough of an introvert that my favorite parties are conversations over coffee in the corner.
I am, however, in favor of acknowledging completions.
For groups and organizations, there is value for a time of reflection at the end of seasons or school years, even if it is as simple as looking at each other and saying, “We made it.”
After the last two years, there is an even greater value (and even need). We’ve talked about these being unprecedented events, never before in our lifetime. Without some time to talk about what has happened, and the feelings about what has happened, there will be lingering trauma, unmetabolized grief.
There may be many ways to do this. But maybe this set of questions is one way.
It starts with a simple statement: We have made it to this place. It has been hard.
Then, a time of responding.
Say, “We have walked through these hard places in our organization.”
And then in discussion, describe the hard places, moments, adjustments. How did some of those challenge the core of who we are, of what we think we are about? How did some of those adjustments actually work? How did we feel things might turn out differently? How did we do really good work in the middle of uncertainty?
Say, “While we have been doing that together, in our own lives, we have walked through these hard things.”
And then in discussion talk through the personal losses and changes and events, without comparisons, for each person. Deaths, births, job losses, relationship losses, relationship gains, job changes.
Say, “We acknowledge that the hard things have been made harder by the disruption of routines and rituals for grief. Even the delights have been tempered by the disruption of routines and rituals for celebration.”
And then identify the losses without collective grieving, the gains without collective celebration, the conflict about celebrating in the face of so much grief.
Because we have a deep American temptation to move on, to say, “That’s done. Let’s move on to the important stuff”, there is value to have a marker.
Setting up a rock, an altar, a gravemarker, or even the dedication of a plaque that says, “On May 23, 2022, these people looked at each other and looked at the years, and said, ‘We did a ___ good job and we tried to help each other the best we could.”
And that’s the end of the gathering.
Or maybe there’s food.