Working with contemporary rituals in the residential care group Curando
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in the Curando group. While the uncertainty about how to deal with the virus was great, the consequences in the residential care centers were far-reaching. The many deaths had a major impact not only directly but also indirectly. Psychotherapeutic guidance was provided to the caregivers, and a memorial garden was set up.
The constant anxiety that something bad could happen created tension that could not be released. It is admirable how the staff remained there during that difficult period. Despite the uncertainty and confusion, which was particularly significant in the first period, there was remarkably little employee absenteeism. There was outstanding commitment among employees; they carried a lot.
After 2.5 years, the great suffering was over, but the carrying capacity was exhausted. There was a great need for healing among the people. To find peace again. To rebuild strength. It was most evident at the middle levels of the organisation.
Curando’s management called Corporate Rituals to investigate the possibilities of working with contemporary rituals in the residential care group. On the one hand, there was the need for healing due to the heavy impact of Covid on employees and residents. And on the other hand, the need to be of service in other situations where collective healing is required.
Healing and learning at different layers in the organisation
In the long run, our assignment will change, developing a healing and learning trajectory around rituals for the entire organisation, working on three layers:
- Healing: From recognising resilience and beauty that has shown itself in the past period: what do we take with us? How do we strengthen the organisation’s capacity and each of its employees? How do we permanently give what happened a place?
- Christian Identity: How do we give Christian identity and values a place in a contemporary, future-oriented organisation?
- Leadership: How can you fail/be vulnerable in an executive committee? How do we give space to ‘difficult’ emotions in the organisation’s leadership so they can flow again, and then do the same for the other levels of the organisation?
We focus on Curando employees within a specific zone in the first phase. In response to a specific team question, we guided the care team through a co-creation process for trauma healing and processing.
“The collaboration with Corporate Rituals was with integrity and professionalism, starting from an authentic enthusiasm that created space, time and language for a healing ritual with attention to diversity and respect for everyone’s uniqueness.”Wim Vandewiele, staff member pastoral office & ethics
Carefully take steps together.
Together with the client, we started with a zone we treated as an experimental zone or proof of concept – the problem here was not linked directly to Covid but more to a communication blockage.
In conversations, the deeper wounds and their origins started surfacing and being talked about, allowing us to move forward step by step – listening and feeling – an introductory workshop on connecting communication offered tools for communicating. The Collective Healing team then tested their insights and proposal for the ritual via a co-creation session with the Curando employees.
While the ritual was postponed for several months due to a new Covid wave, the new manager could be present at the final ritual, which was important for her integration and the subsequent changes.
There was also close communication with the teams’ managers throughout the process while respecting individual privacy and confidentiality.
Guiding collective healing rituals in organisations means carefully taking steps together and creating safety, trust, and space to allow what has often been suppressed to flow again. To look back at what was painful and let it go, together. Then there will be lightness, resilience, and room for a renewed, powerful connection.
With a view to the broader objective of transferring insights and competencies, there was also a direct line of communication with the internal project coordinator throughout the entire process. And through him with other executives and the team of chaplains.
Creating the space to process together
On a beautiful day in January, the team members gathered for the processing ritual, which many of them had helped prepare. They looked at the pain of the past together and then let it go. They saw each other in it, felt the relaxation and the new space together, in vulnerability and connection. To again felt the strength of this team, of this ‘family’ of people who love each other despite everything. They could then retake their place in equality.
The ritual took place in the residential care center to involve as many people as possible and for time reasons. The majority of the team members were present, despite the high workload.
The tailor-made ritual was made up of a succession of small rituals:
- Welcome ceremony with personal objects
- Meeting and bearing together the pain of the past, layer by layer; verbally and with clay
- Funeral ritual in the garden
- Silence and light moment
- Completion ritual: take your own place, give thanks
As always, we closed with a moment of celebration. Over a drink and snack, the renewed connection in the group became tangible and visible. Statements such as ‘I feel at home here; I would never want to work for another team’ were generally accepted.
Build safety and trust in the Curando team
The ritual – and the whole process – brought safety and confidence to the team again. The connecting communication workshop was also essential in surfacing and articulating tensions and formulating concerns. By opening and inviting discussion on the trauma, there was much relaxation in the team. The sense of discord (perception of two groups) was broken. Everyone could be completely human again.
Because the former managers always played a central role in the traumas experienced, the ritual also explicitly focused on the manager’s role. The position was ‘vacated,’ and the new manager was able to occupy this position fully. The same applied to new employees in the – professionally very strong – team.
The process and ritual ensured that further escalation of suppressed tensions was avoided, and the team members could work together again in an atmosphere of trust and safety. It also created space for the new manager, who immediately took up this space in a powerful and connecting way – and for any new employees.