No or Not Yet


Sometimes the things I write about are equally applicable to my personal and professional lives.

This is one of those times.

I have learned something as a consultant lately that I want to tell you about. It’s a tiny mistake in language that we all make at times, myself included. Sometimes I say NO when I mean NOT YET.

I also forget that NOT YET is a perfectly acceptable answer. I am quicker to a NO than a NOT YET.

I meet many donor families and recipients in my work. I meet people who have gone through, or watched their loved one go through, harrowing medical experiences. I meet people who have lost someone they love in a tragic way.

Since my way of connecting with these people is through donation and transplantation, I often meet them very shortly after their loss or their transplant. It might be only a few weeks or months past their loss or their brush with death. They tell me: Brianna, I am so moved by my experience. I want to start volunteering right away.

From years of experience, I can tell you that if this is within 6 months to 1 year of their traumatic event, volunteering for donation is not a good idea for them. Not yet.

Not yet.

It’s not a NO, it’s a NOT YET.

The OPOs that I work for who have a compassionate guideline for training and deploying volunteers  as ambassadors (again, between 6 months and 1 year post loss or transplant) tend to have better outcomes for their volunteers, their staff (who work with these volunteers), and their audiences.

Volunteers who come to my trainings too early in their grief journey or trauma processing are too easily re-traumatized *by just the training itself* to be deployed to talk about their experiences. When volunteers speak to audiences too quickly after their connection, they tend to bring the audience to their place of trauma (instead of meeting them with a message of hope). Asking them to be ambassadors of a message that is powerful and clear while simultaneously processing their own grief is simply too much to ask of them, and too risky for communicating a message to the public.

When a donor family or transplant recipient/family member asks about volunteering and they are still very close to their trauma, I believe that the best response is a compassionate NOT YET. It’s not a NO, it’s a NOT YET. We can protect their early grief, and keep them from re-traumatizing themselves, with a kind and caring NOT YET.

In that spirit, I will remember to use my thoughtful NOT YET this week. Maybe you will, too.