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Dealing with Anniversaries

Author: Charlie Maclean-Bristol, Training Director, FBCI, FEPS

Charlie discusses how companies should be commemorating and including the anniversaries of traumatic events within their business continuity plans, whilst keeping in mind how anniversaries such as these will also affect your employees.

Last week it was 20 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York. The commemorations that followed got me thinking about anniversaries and how organisations should commemorate and acknowledge them. Below I have listed some thoughts:

1. Acknowledging anniversaries can help in the grieving process, help people to come to terms with a traumatic event, and is a positive action they can take in order to process an event.

2. How long should you commemorate an event? This is a difficult question, there is not a hard and fast rule. Speak to those who were involved or affected by the event, so that you can get their input into whether it’s time to let the event go and not publicly acknowledge it.

3. Managers need to recognise the impact anniversaries may have on their staff.

4. According to Acquanetta Knight, M.Ed. in her slides on 'Disaster Anniversaries' she says that memories, dreams, thoughts, emotions, grief, sadness, frustration, anger, guilt, avoidance, remembrance, and reflection are common reactions to a ‘disaster’ anniversary.

5. Knight also outlined that anniversaries promote resilience and healing in the following ways:
a. During and after the anniversary the community will continue to work through grief and come to terms with loss caused by disaster, ideally by developing constructive coping strategies and building a new post-disaster life. This process can often take years.
b. Recognising responses to triggers and grief as natural and common.
c. Validating loss.
d. Acknowledging success and accomplishment.
e. Recognising stakeholders and their contributions.
f. Partnering with media, cultural brokers, community agencies, schools, and behavioural health providers to provide positive coping skills, information and access to services across their lifespan.

6. A little kindness and thoughtfulness can go a long way to help people coping with a difficult anniversary. We have to remember that when dealing with an incident, we do not go too far into command and control mode, ordering people about, without a thought of what they are feeling and going through during this difficult time.

Dealing with anniversaries should be part of our business continuity plans and there should be some guidance within the plan on how these anniversaries should be handled sensitively.

If you are interested in learning more, Acquanetta Knight’s slides can be found here.

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