Shane Yates, executive director of the Ohio Society of Association Executives (OSAE) died too soon. His sudden death did not allow for a final in-person connection, a heartfelt good-bye. He was a client, a cheerleader, a kick-starter of careers. Bigger than life, always there to inspire, visionary enthusiast. He was abruptly snatched from our midst; we as an association are reeling. Shane’s unanticipated death, at age 41 plunged us into the vortex of grief last weekend, this weekend we remembered him at his celebration of life.

Now what? The mantras “Gotta move on. Just keep going” are what American businesses emulates. There is no time to mindfully breathe into our grief. Collapse into the tsunami of sadness. There is no place for a collection of flowers, messages and photos in the workplace.

As an association community, whether you knew Shane or not, you know someone in your professional circle who has passed recently. This is the nature of our aging association leadership population. Now is the time, we can embrace mindful grieving and intentional mourning to honor Shane and each of us. Shane’s legacy can expand as we model for America what grief and mourning should really look like, sound like and feel like. Why not the world of associations to educate, as we so often do?

Mindful Grieving is the process of :

  • recognizing the many facets of grief (feelings, physical, mental and spiritual)
  • feeling, listening to and experiencing the dissipation of fear using mindfulness
  • exploring the tools of curiosity, discovery, object permanence and self-care as supports to move through and eventually beyond grief.

Intentional Mourning is emoting the deep, dark, anguished feelings emerging as grief through wailing, sobbing for days, crying for hours, moving, creating or expression emotion in the presence of others or in solitude.

How could our workplaces support our bereaved colleagues with mindful grieving and intentional mourning? I asked Georgena Eggleston, Grief Guide, and principle expert and thought leader in the area of grief and mourning. She offered our community this one tool.

Notice now, how you are feeling in your body. Is there an ache or pain that is new or intensified? Simply pause.

Turn your attention there and then breathe in deeply through your nose and gently blow the air out through your rounded lips.

Be in the present moment when you are with one another. Really look at the person you are speaking to.

Relax and lighten up. Remember Shane’s (or the person you know who recently passed) laughter.

Finally, what is the one thing that you admired about Shane (or the person you know who recently passed)? When you spot it you got it. Translation: that quality, characteristic, action is really mirrored in you. Write out and place on your desk “I miss Shane’s (his/her) _____. Don’t be afraid to use their name. I will shine my light a little brighter and be that now.” Leave this note out on your desk as long as you wish.

As I pause a moment to remember Shane I remember how profoundly he lived, he laughed, and he loved. May we all shine our light a little brighter knowing Shane. May we be reminded to never take one moment for granted. In love and sympathy – Holly Duckworth


Co-authors: Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP, consultant to CEOs and executives. She helps businesses increase results by facilitating strategic planning sessions, teaming with leaders to co-create new visions, and introducing new and proven approaches to leadership.

Georgena Eggleston, MA, Trauma Specialist, Grief Guide owner of Grief Guide for those touched by suicide, sudden death, and deep grief Author of A New Mourning: Discovering the Gifts in Grief.