Re: How to handle departing members
From: Gretchen Westlight (
Date: Sat, 24 Jun 2000 23:28:13 -0600 (MDT)
On Sat, 24 Jun 2000 Yacky5 [at] wrote:

> I live in a community where two households out of the orginal group left for 
> a personal reasons. The remaining members are very hurt and somewhat 
> bitter..i am wondering if anyone has dealt with the grief issues when someone 
> leaves or has advice on stuff I can read..the group is somewhat!

Here is a longish response to this plea, which includes a description of
what we at Cascadia Commons did under similar circumstance and the
standard outline for our farewell ceremony under less stressful

We had an unhappy and uncomfortable departure on the eve of closing a loan
last summer (the loan fell through for other reasons).  Two days after the
household announced they were resigning the LLC, our Coordinating
Committee asked me to design and facilitate a process to help folks get
through it (they knew we'd never be able to get any business done without
a change for folks to publicly voice their strong feelings). 

Having been through some hard times previously (not departures), I knew
that one of our group dynamics was a lack of follow-through.  So I
designed a 4-part process:

First was venting.  We used a Listening Meeting format, and each person
had about 5 minutes to share their thoughts, feelings, insights, whatever
-- very free-form, popcorn-style sharing, confidential.  It was *very*
illimunating, at least for me.  (I had been uncomfortable with the
departing couple from the very beginning, but was an Associate at the time
they joined and so had no input into the decision about their membership.
I thought I was alone in my discomfort, but it turns out I wasn't.) People
expressed a wide range of emotions, some of which included anger, relief,
impatience to move on, gratitude for their past contributions, missing
them, betrayal, sadness, even neutrality.

At our meeting the following week, I put 4 sheets of paper up on the wall,
titled: Lessons Learned, Ideas for Improvement, Unanswered Questions,
Whatever (catch-all for things that didn't fit into the other categories). 
Specifically drawing on the sharing from the previous week, I asked for
popcorn-style sharing to any of these lists.  It felt really important to
me to get these things written down in a group context, to capture the
wisdom and unfinished business from this traumatic event.

The 3rd week, we went over the lists and assigned responsibility for
following up on the ideas generated.  Some of them went to a specific
committee, others we just said "Let's keep this in our consciousness."

Due to the pressures of scrambling for financing yet again (I didn't name
it the "fiscal inferno" for nothing!), the group decided to forego what I
had planned for the final part, which was more refinement of the not-
easily-categorized items from the lists.

This decision corroborated my concern about our group's less-than-perfect
follow-through.  But we made it farther than we had previously, and now I
get to say "I told you so" if we make any of the same mistakes again. ;^>
And we *have* implemented a number of the Ideas for Improvement, so we've
learned *something*.

I don't know that this template will fit every group or every situation --
it really depends what you want/need to get out of it.  I should say that
I had just finished reading _The Dazzle of Day_ by Molly Gloss (I've
recommended it on this list before: Quakers in space on a 200-year journey
to another planet -- can't beat the premise!).  Its depiction of meetings
and the roles patience and reflection play in them definitely influenced
my approach to creating the kind of process I described above (and still

I should also mention that prior to this couple's departure, I had
designed a farewell ceremony for folks who left earlier that year.  It
feels as important to me to say good-bye consciously as it does to have a
welcoming/induction ceremony for new members.  It's not always possible or
desireable to do it *with* the departing member, but it's still important
for the group to acknowledge the change.  We're hoping we don't have to do
another farewell ceremony for awhile, but it's there when we need it. It's
a book-end to our induction ceremony in some ways.  Re-reading it, I
realize it will probably change for our first farewell after we have been
living in community for awhile (less formal, more intimate).  In case
anyone is interested, here's what it looks like: 

                        Outline for Farewell Ceremony

        Check in with departing member: do they want this ceremony (as
much for the group as for them)?  (If not, consider what group needs and
do something without the departing member.)
        Review outline, ask for additions and concerns.
        Set date (preferably potluck).
        Prepare card (I fold a large piece of paper into a crane base
origami fold, another member writes "Farewell, __________" in calligraphy
on the front, we paste on a logo cut-out, and everyone contributes by
writing or decorating or glueing in a card or memento) 

Set up
        Table (flowers that they can take are nice)
        Candles - pass out and light them somehow!
        All stand in circle

"We are here to acknowledge the contributions of _______________, a member
of Cascadia for ___ years, and to bid him/her farewell as he/she moves on
to other things."

Time to give thanks for their committee and position work, and any other
contributions they have made.  (Make notes ahead of time of recent
involvements and specific actions.)
"Without these contributions, we would not be as strong a community as we
are today.  Thank you, __________!  Let's have a round of applause!"

Presentation of Card and Sharing Memories
"We have created a keepsake card for you, as a token of our appreciation.
We hope it will remind you of the happiness and struggles we have shared
over the years.  [give card]  In addition, we would like to take the
opportunity to share some thoughts out loud.  Let's do it popcorn style."

Sharing Memories (individual to group)
"Now we invite you, _________, to share your memories and to make any
specific public acknowledgements you would like."

Future Relations (individual to group)
"Please tell us how you would like to be involved with Cascadia in the
future: what kind of contact from us to you and vice versa, how often will
you be over for dinner, etc.  And we would like to know what it would take
to have you re-join as a member!"

"Blessing" by Brewer & Shipley, arranged by Motherlode (on their
_Precious Stone_ CD).  Start on E, keep the tempo snappy.

"While we say good-bye to you as a member, we want you to know that you
will always be welcome in Cascadia as an honored guest and good friend
(and a member again if you so choose!).  You know where to find us, and we
hope you will remain in touch.  Please keep your candle in addition to the

That's it, FWIW. :-)

Gretchen Westlight, Cascadia Commons

Where Phase 1 completion is only 2-3 weeks away!  Check out our newly
revised website (url below).  Hope I can finish tonight's changes before
1am, as has been my unfortunate habit for over a week.  My daughter turns
3 tomorrow (6/25).  Boxes are taking over our apartment.  Can I hold all
of these miracles in my heart?  More importantly, will I survive the

gren [at]               Member of: Cascadia Commons Cohousing                  Portland, Oregon

Results generated by Tiger Technologies Web hosting using MHonArc.