A few years back, I decided I wanted to get back into Literacy Project implementation and socio-economic development with Natives somewhere on this planet. My wonderful children were all grown up and I felt the urge of filling the void with a passion of mine!

In spring, as I traveled Costa Rica that year, I came across a Native demonstration of ancestral rituals. I was struck by the fact that they could not communicate easily with the tourists and that the interpreter was cashing in on this. When the ritual was completed, I approached the Natives and left my name, asking for a mailing address. Back in Canada, I wrote a letter to the Chief and decided to return that summer to explore the country and learn more about the culture.

Now, starting up a project involves a relatively long period of preparation and research. This usually occurs after the first meeting which took place that summer. For the following year, the enthusiast Chief and I pursued communication through the mail. That second summer, I was to spend 6 weeks implementing a Distance Education program and training a group who would learn English and the rudimentary skills to coordinate, administer and advertise a Tourist operation. The project was to last 5 years and would give the opportunity for all interested tribe members to participate.

That year was spent approaching universities, fund raising, documenting the culture, the history, the biodiversity and environment and lining up the objectives to be discussed to that, at the end of five years, they would have reached financial autonomy and acquired the knowledge and technology to develop a sustainable tourist venture.

A few weeks prior to departure, I received a message saying the Chief was sick and the family very worried. Four days after, this healthy man of some 40 years of age had died from an unknown cause.

Even six years ago, Costa Rica had Internet Cafes everywhere and I had initiated a small group in using email the previous year. So I received an email announcing the Chief departure. The fragility of life struck me again!
Some 10 days later, I was told that they still expected me to come so I maintained my plan.

Upon my arrival, the Chief’s wife expressed that her husband had entrusted them to me to learn, that good would come of it. The weight of such responsibility is quite impressive! I knew I had the capacity of helping but this was huge. I’m always up for a challenge. Yet, in this case, I certainly wanted to live up to expectations knowing the frailty of people involved! It suddenly gave a whole new meaning to this endeavor.

The first summer of implementation rotated around getting accustomed to the culture, determining priorities and daily grief management intervention at a variety of levels. Children, wife, relatives, villagers, all interweaved in some way needed comfort of some sort. Emotions ran from despair to hope, from a semblance of normal activity to the immense emptiness, from the scarce feeling of joy to the crushing sadness.

Over the five years, first, new projects arose. Then babies were born and finally new opportunities made life easier and the new knowledge acquired defined the skills needed for a better future.

Grief management takes time and life inevitably claims you back. When you’ve just lost someone, you are overwhelmed by feelings and pressured to solve problems you wish you could put aside long enough for you to catch your breath. A little later, after having had massive support, people go back to their lives and you may feel quite alone. Later still, you will want to live your life in a manner that will fulfill you once again.

In any of these instances, it is important to have council. A support system should always be set up and prolonged. It can be on a daily, weekly or monthly basis for the first two years, depending on the individual. Just don’t stop contact. It’ll help to assess where you’re at as you go along. Sharing helps you do that. Keeping a journal is a fine way to record your progress and express your feelings in all privacy. Just don’t isolate yourself!

Elizabeth McNally
Mentor & Licensed Certified EI Coach


More details on my book

Author's Bio: 

Some 17 years of experience as a Mentor & Coach, pertinent Career and life experiences, a Master’s degree in Education and training in Emotional Intelligence enable me to better perceive my clients’ needs. Because of this, I know how to help my clients clarify their thoughts, pinpoint issues and take concrete, suitable action to solve the problem, in record time.