How does the loss of a loved one affect the succession process?

Business Leader Post, October 25, 2013

Thomas D. Davidow, Ed.D.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience all too often that the loss of a family member prevents the rest of the family from addressing its future.   Most of the time, interesting enough, I am not called in right away, but years after the loss. The immediate reaction of the family to a traumatic event like the loss of a loved one is to gather together and support one another. That brings them together in a way that mitigates the pain of the loss.

Time passes, and the demands of the business continue.  However, when it’s time to address the future in terms of succession, the family members resist doing so. At some level, they know it will stir up the sadness and the pain of the loss of their loved one. I get called in when not addressing the issue is more painful and more anxiety provoking for the business and the family than addressing it.

The key to releasing the family’s ability to face the future is for them to move from grieving individually to grieving collectively. Once the family moves through that collective grieving process, they are no longer attached to the past loss and are emotionally free to address the future.

I write this to inform and educate, not to suggest that you move any faster through the process. You can act on the future only when you are ready to. You will know when that is.