Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Being thankful for my colleagues

I sent this email to our CEO today. For obvious reasons, I have changed names to initials.

When I wrote this in draft, I was astounded at how much support I've received at work this year.

I'll let the email speak for itself.


Dear J

Even though I am not American, with Thanksgiving approaching, it felt like the right time to write to you.

On January 6th this year my husband died unexpectedly from a stroke. Thankfully I was on vacation and with him at the time, which gives me comfort today.

Obviously this has had an enormous impact on me emotionally and physically throughout this year, and I just wanted to share with you how important a role this Company has played in my grief journey, with some examples:

· Despite being immensely busy with “.................” work, PW called me for half an hour on January 6th. Speaking to him for this time calmed me sufficiently and enabled me to sleep for a few hours straight afterwards, having not slept for 48 hours in a row. P then somehow found another slot to call me after the funeral to talk again, and just having a taste of that sense of normalcy was tantamount to a ship seeing a lighthouse in a Nor’wester.

· KS proof-read the Eulogy that I wrote for my husband.

· I received approximately 100 cards, messages and phone calls from HO in the UK over the course of those early days.

· FS picked me up from home and dropped me off for the first month when I returned to work. I had never driven in the snow before and at the time we had 12” of snow here. The thought of attempting this alone at the time, would have been simply terrifying.

· SJ took my husband’s tax affairs from me so that her husband could take care of them.

· ST (my Line Manager at the time) was incredibly protective of me and extremely supportive. There is no need to describe all the details, however she attended Cliff’s funeral, she knew (far better than I) what I was capable of and gently persuaded me to not set myself up to fail. S called me every single day to check how I was and just to talk. She even introduced a charity raising element at each team meeting, to commemorate Cliff throughout the year. It is also because of S that I sought counselling and began my journey towards healing. I can honestly say that I would not have coped as well this year, on a personal basis, without the foundation that she laid down for me at work.

· I was terrified that I would be treated differently when I returned to work and need not have been. Not one person in this building avoided me, in fact everyone from Senior Managers to the ladies who work in the Deli, all came straight up to me on my first attempt to return to work.

· AS took an hour on a Saturday to talk to my local BMW car dealership to ensure that the car I was thinking of purchasing was the right decision for me, because I was so used to my husband dealing with those issues that I didn’t feel confident enough, not to mention the fact that I frankly wasn’t capable of making a sensible choice at the time. This resulted in my driving confidence returning, and today the car is literally my umbilical cord to the world.

· My new Line Manager, DS is now helping to support me by agreeing realistic objectives for 2010 and gently guiding me into the new year, managing me to ensure that I do not take on more than I am ready for, because she understands that I ache to run before I can walk, somehow ensuring that I don’t even feel bad about it.

The list is endless, truly. It is always a dangerous thing to do – to start mentioning people by name in case you omit someone, and I know that I have, however it is simply to keep this email to a sensible length. Suffice to say, that my peers have been amazing, simply by offering to help, by listening, by giving empathy and offering their company at weekends. Previous Line Managers, such as OM have dropped whatever they have been doing and given me 5 minutes so that I can sanity-check decisions that I now have to make on my own. Senior Managers, especially RB and PS, during an exceptionally busy year, have made a point of stopping by my desk to see how I am doing.

I am very fortunate to have a loving and solid network of family and friends, but I have to say that this year, and for the next couple of years, ........ will be my anchor. This year it has been the only place where I have felt as though I am in my comfort zone. I sincerely doubt that any of the colleagues I have mentioned are aware of the impact that their actions or words have had, but I shall never forget.

It is very important, especially when you feel as though your whole world has gone, to remain grounded, and for me, one of the ways to accomplish this is to think about what I have to be thankful for. There are many things that I have to be grateful for, however one answer that I felt compelled to share with you is this. ........... is DEFINITELY a great place to work.

Have a good Thanksgiving.

Best wishes



  1. What a WONDERFUL letter and terrific colleagues you have! It is so nice to find out that people really do still care about each other!


  2. you are truly blessed and humble enough to realize it. you don't take it for granted. your colleagues are a blessing to you and you are one to them. i'm glad you have been fortunate enough to have all this support. thinking of you.

  3. I am lucky, it grounds me to think about stuff like this when I go into one of those dark phases ... somehow it helps :-)