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Transforming Workplace Ghost Carriers into Grief Warriors and Healing Guides: Strengthening Employee Health and Productivity through Workplace Griefbusting

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Here’s a Workplace Griefbusting program I’ve just developed, a spinoff from the original essay –

Transforming Workplace Ghost Carriers into Grief Warriors and Healing Guides: Strengthening Employee Health and Productivity through Workplace Griefbusting


The essay and program were partly inspired by recent Critical Incident-Grief Intervention Consulting after a popular employee died in a head-on collision driving to work. I appreciate your comments/critique on the program’s viability, marketability, etc. Feel free to share with any parties that might be interested. Please email or call 301-875-2567 if interested in scheduling a program. Best wishes and good adventures.


P.S. Reader comments about the Workplace Griefbusting concept appear below:


Program Synopsis: Overview, Critical Issues, Steps, and Objectives

Transforming Workplace Ghost Carriers into Grief Warriors and Healing Guides

Strengthening Employee Health and Productivity through Workplace Griefbusting

In a 24/7 world that’s forever reorganizing, upgrading, and streamlining, employees and organizations are caught up in a cycle of change, loss of control, as well as mission and morale undermining uncertainty…but change and crisis also generate challenge and opportunity. However, many are not prepared to “let go and launch” because they are anchored down. One familiar anchor is the draining state of physical and emotional “burnout.” However, another burdensome weight, not as obvious, is the Stress Doc’s ™ newly conceived “burn-in.” This covert condition involves lingering and reverberating grief from recent and past losses – whether from deaths and divorces, growing up in (substance) abusing families, jolted by on-the-job trauma, or stunned by an unexpected RIF, foreclosure, major illness, or natural disaster. Burn-in sits heavy on many people’s minds and bodies, hearts and souls. Yet many are leery of entering the dark and deep labyrinth of grief, afraid of discovering a shadowy monster within, or that the spewing of tears, once unleashed, will never end. And combined with the cultural message “don’t look back; just move on,” not surprisingly, this hulking, smoldering ghost is often barely recognized in a “TNT” – “Time, Numbers, & Technology” – driven and distracted world.

What Happens When “Grief Ghosts” Walk and Stalk Your Office Halls and Work Floors?

Not unlike an undetected computer virus, many bring this psychic specter to work every day. Ghostly burn-in’s energy-wasting and consuming dynamic not only flies under our psychological radar but, not surprisingly, often escapes rational understanding. Limited awareness has definite consequences for our physical and emotional well-being, as well as for the health and harmony of our essential social-work groups and systems. And akin to “burnout,” carrying around heavy grief ghosts, that is, quietly aching from chronic “burn-in”:

1) disrupts productive concentration, encourages apathy, self-doubt, and cynicism; it may trigger volatility and defensiveness and also be physically and emotionally draining,

2) contaminates the ability to manage conflict constructively with authority figures and colleagues as well as customers (not to mention family members),

3) interferes with the capacity to form and sustain effective “hi task-hi touch-hi tolerance” relationships, especially vital in today’s diverse workplace,

4) “ghost carriers” often become “stress carriers” and “time wasters,” distracting themselves through gossip and by getting into other people’s business.

5) will eventually compromise confidence, productive performance, and team cooperation-coordination, as well as undermine morale and respect for leadership, and

6) as a former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant with the USPS, my gut and experience tells me that a good percentage of workers, whatever the work setting, who “go postal” (or who harm themselves through suicidal behavior or sometimes early heart attacks or strokes) may well be grappling with inner demons and ghosts.

How Can Organizations and Companies Tackle this Disruptive Phantom?

Mark Gorkin, LICSW, The Stress Doc ™, is an acclaimed expert-consultant-speaker-retreat leader on crisis intervention, stress, grief, and burnout and the author of Practice Safe Stress: Healing and Laughing in the Face of Stress, Burnout and Depression, The Doc will deliver and facilitate a high energy, thought-provoking, interactive, inspiring, and FUN program or an OD Workplace Grief-Ghost Assessment and Consultation to help you understand the parallel connections between “burnout” and “burn-in” and enable your workplace to transform “Chronic Ghost Carriers into Productive Grief Warriors” if not Graceful and Wise Grief Guides.” Workplace Griefbusting is especially critical in disorienting times of major personal or organizational change. Consider these critical steps:

  1. Do early “grief ghost” detection through preventive and preemptive orientation, coaching, team building, and training,
  2. Is it time for a healing and harmonizing Griefbuster to walk your office halls, work floors, and warehouses, perhaps participate in workplace-family events?,
  3. Add a Griefbusting supplement to an EAP, Cognitive-Behavioral Health, or Employee Wellness Program, and
  4. Self-transform (or help others convert) lingering, loitering, lashing out, and long-lasting ghosts into vital energy as well as passionate (and compassionate) purpose and productive action through living, learning, loving, and liberating grief; remember, the longer the lingering ghost walks alone, isolated, unrecognized, denied, dismissed, or shunned, the heavier the emotional toll and loitering fine.
  5. 5. And the Stress Doc’s use of humor and playful-purposeful exercises helps reduce the fear and stigma of talking about grief and ghosts. As the Doc penned: People are more open to a serious message that’s gift-wrapped with humor!

Program Objectives

Here are the “Top Ten Concepts and Skills, Tools and Strategies for Transforming Haunting Ghost Carriers into Grief Warriors and Healing Guides.” For take back to workplace and home, participants will interactively discover and discuss, design and explore:

  • The Parallels between the Four Stages of Burnout and the Newly Conceived Ghostly Burn-in
  • The Impact of Lingering Grief and Four Types of “Grief Ghosts” Stalking Your Workplace
  • Six “F’s for Dealing with Every-day and Existential Loss and Change
  • Ways of Tactfully and Empathically Approaching Both a Person in Grief and a Ghost Carrier
  • Two Common Cultural Barriers to “Timely” Griefbusting
  • Four Kinds of Grief Processes to Transform the Haunting into the Healing
  • An Array of Specific Methods of Meaningful Mourning and “Letting Go and Launching”
  • Familiar and Non-Traditional Griefbusting Remembrances for “Memory, Mourning, and Mirth”
  • The Research-based Four “C”s of Psychological Hardiness (esp. in Times of Transition)
  • The Path of Chronic Ghost Carrier to Productive Grief Warrior to Graceful and Wise Grief Guide

So seek the higher power of Stress Doc humor: May the Farce Be with You!

Don’t miss your appointment with the Stress Doc!!

Mark Gorkin, MSW, LICSW, “The Stress Doc” ™, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is an acclaimed keynote & kickoff speaker, webinar presenter, as well as “Motivational Humorist & Team Communication Catalyst” known for his interactive, inspiring and FUN programs for both government agencies and major corporations. In addition, the “Doc” is a team building and organizational development consultant, working both independently and as a “Senior Critical Incident & Training Consultant” with the national firm, Behavioral Health Services. He provides “Stress and Communication, as well as Managing Change, Leadership and Team Building” programs for the 1st Cavalry Division and 13th Expeditionary Support Command, Ft. Hood, Texas and for Army Community Services and Family Advocacy Programs at Ft. Meade, MD and Ft. Belvoir, VA as well as Andrews Air Force Base/Behavioral Medicine Services. Mark has also rotated as a Military & Family Life Consultant (MFLC) at Ft. Campbell, KY. A former Stress and Violence Prevention Consultant for the US Postal Service, The Stress Doc is the author of Practice Safe Stress and of The Four Faces of Anger. See his award-winning, USA Today Online “HotSite”www.stressdoc.com — called a “workplace resource” by National Public Radio (NPR). For more info on the Doc’s “Practice Safe Stress” programs or to receive his free e-newsletter, email [email protected] or call 301-875-2567.


Program Notes


I had an epiphany early one morning while in that twilight state, a follow up to my recent essay on Workplace Griefbusting. (Here’s the link to the original essay: http://www-stressdoc-com.blogspot.com/ .) I have tried to capture my understanding in a 2-page mini-article/workshop outline-objective promotional piece. It’s pasted below. (Eventually I will need to shorten it to program blurb size; the longer piece helps lay out my business case.) Basically, I’m seeing a yin-yang connection between the stages of burnout (my “Four Stages of Burnout” essay has been acclaimed and published extensively) and the burden of carrying chronic grief ghosts.

My intent is to be more metaphorical and psycho-spiritual than literal regarding spectral notions. Please don’t take my experience having inspiring conversations and vexing head and heart battles with a deceased’s voice and internalized essence for the “real” thing, that is, a belief in actual ghosts. (I will leave that argument to others.) For me, the notion that children are not just shaped by positive and negative messages from significant others, but that they also internalize (unconsciously take on) the negative and positive emotions and self-images that these vital and meaningful others have about themselves, is mind blowing enough. That is, for example, our parent’s or grandparent’s shame or confidence (or lack thereof) unwittingly becomes part of our own sense of self and degree of self-esteem. We are an active and receptive player in a family drama, whether we want to be or not. Consider a recent observation: “The more I hear a person declare, ‘The last person I’ll ever be like is my old man,’ the surer I am of a haunted psyche.”

I believe “Transforming Workplace Ghost Carriers into Grief Warriors and Healing Guides: Strengthening Employee Health and Productivity through Workplace Griefbusting” can be a transformational program for people and organizations, for communities and our society as a whole. Any and all ideas for improving the concept and/or spreading the word are encouraged and appreciated.

As always, your support means a great deal. Best wishes and good adventures.



Readers’ Responses

Hello again, Mark!

As far as your “Griefbusters” concept, you have presented some compelling reasons for business to pay attention to their workforce of “ghost carriers.” I particularly liked your statement…”potentially turn the haunting into the healing – transforming lingering, loitering, and long-lasting ghosts into living, learning, and liberating grief.” I believe that so beautifully gets to the “heart” of it all.

If we were able to measure the lost productivity due to this phenomenon, I suppose it would shore up our national debt quite nicely. Far more important to our country and our world is the loss of creativity, contentment, grace, and happiness of the human spirit. I wonder what numbers we would come up with THAT measurement?

My only feedback other than loving it is to devise some clever marketing – since loss is the bottom line for everyone in the end, it would help if we could all understand how to become ghost warriors instead of ghost carriers!

My sincere best,


Rita Avinger, Ph.D., SPHR

[I loved Rita’s final marketing mantra: how to become ghost warriors instead of ghost carriers!

A former head of a Leadership Development Institute, Rita is planning to start her own Consulting Firm.]



Wow! This is really great work you have done. Our own company recently lost prominent coworkers to suicide; this is our second suicide in a 2 year period. Both were very well liked males with multiple small children left behind. Your work in this area is so valuable in my opinion. I also believe that encouraging and working with an employer’s current EAP program is critical and brings to light the resources that are readily available yet sadly underused. I will work with Mike on incorporating this resource into our picture for clients (& our employees as well)! I will also pass this on to our HR Director and encourage him to consider.

Again, great work! You are such a good soul Mark and your never ending commitment to helping mankind deal with the many psych issues we share today as a “TNT”society is incredibly valuable.

I am proud to know you Doc,


[J. is a Vice President, Corporate Health & Productivity, at a major insurance company]


David Creelman has sent you a message.

Date: 2/09/2012


A few quick thoughts

1) “I don’t want to think about this” — which means I want someone who has thought about it available at a moment’s notice when I need it.

2) Besides grief tied to a specific tragedy I expect that the stress people feel in organizations sometimes goes beyond stress and is better described as grief.

3) My typical view of a grief counselor is someone almost sanctimonious; I think you bring a different, more palatable angle to this.


[email protected]

[David does writing, research and speaking on the most critical issues in human capital management. He was part of the start-up of the mega-site HR.com]


Here’s my response to David:

Thanks for the insightful comments, esp. # 1. I think I need to consider that as another possible interpretation.

I do think immediate stress (whether significantly acute or the final straw) may well trigger that lingering, underlying grief.

And, yes, with all the uncertainty, loss and rapid change, people are at a loss or longing for a way of operating that seems to be flying by; not only loss of control but of confidence.

And I’m glad I don’t come across as too solemn or sanctimonious. I’ll leave that to the…!


Hey traveler,

Can’t say I have much to add. This is good and useful stuff. I think you can turn it into a major offering, not only for seminars and part of large conferences but also be the one they call in a tough situation immediately after an event. (or you contact them–like Micron re CEO death.)


[Avi Azrieli is a former corporate lawyer now writing novels, including his most recent, Christmas for Joshua]


Marilyn replied to your discussion “Transforming Workplace Ghost Carriers into Grief Warriors” in Human Resources on GovLoop – Social Network for Government

I have many times thought there should be individuals whose jobs it is to focus on employee wellness. There is a lot of talk about it, but instead they assign it as a collateral duty and usually to someone that doesn’t have time or inclination to do anything. I would love the job myself since I take it on myself to try to keep people active and healthy.

[Marilyn and I have begun an exchange; we are discussing my helping to facilitate a Singles Retreat in Austin, TX in the fall.]


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