Over the months and years that forums are together, members will inevitably experience the loss of loved ones, including the passing of parents. At these times, forum can be a powerful source of support and a safe place for reflection and learning.
Following are several approaches to consider.
- Don’t wait for the affected member to communicate with the full forum. They have other things on their mind. If you have information (e.g., the parent’s obituary or details of the funeral), share it with the rest of the forum. Encourage members to attend the memorial service and/or to make a contribution to a charity designated by the family. (When my father died, it meant a lot to me to receive personal notes from forum mates, and that some of them came to the shiva at my home.)
- Reach out to the affected member, as soon as feels appropriate, ideally in advance of the next meeting. You can ask:
- How can the forum be helpful?
- Would you like to share any thoughts or the eulogy you delivered at the funeral?
- Would you like to present at the next meeting (or at some future time) about your relationship with your parent? About how you will support your surviving parent? About relationships with your siblings that may be strengthened or stressed now?
Take your lead from the member who has suffered the loss.
- At a future meeting, consider doing an exercise that allows all members to reflect on relations with their parents. Here’s one called “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”:
In this connection exercise, members share some insights into their relationship with their father or mother. Depending on the size of the group, each member is allotted 5-10 minutes. Members can choose to focus on their father or mother, or the exercise can be repeated at a later date to cover the second parent. Possible questions (members do not answer all questions unless more time is allowed):
- Discuss your relationship with your parent as a child, as a teen, and as an adult.
- What was it like growing up?
- If your parent is alive, how old is he/she today and how is his/her health?
- When is the last time you told him/her that you loved him/her? When is the last time he/she said it to you?
- What have you learned in your relationship with your parents that you hope (or would hope) to replicate/avoid in your relationship with your children?
- Do you think your marriage or significant relationship mirrors your parents? How?
- Do you think your life mirrors your parents? How?
Note: This exercise is adapted from Mo Fathelbab’s book, Forum: The Secret Advantage of Successful Leaders.