Things were going so well for me in my business.
But there’s nothing quite like the death of a loved one to knock you out of the daydream that is your perfectly crafted world.
I was lucky enough to have reason to be home with my family when my dad’s health started deteriorating.
I had planned on coming to Chicago for my sister-in-law-to-be’s bachelorette party and adjusted my initial trip timeline to stay for a while longer to help my dad recuperate from lung surgery.
Everything was more or less going according to plan – until it wasn’t.
One week after surgery, my dad’s blood pressure spiked and he had to be taken to the hospital.
It didn’t take long for him to stabilize but I knew he’d be there for a while.
During the week he was in the hospital, I brought my laptop and stayed with him while knocking out work, switching off with my mom.
About a week after he was admitted, my mom called me at 1 a.m. in a panic.
She told me that it was unlikely my dad would make it much longer.
I sped the whole way there, praying for enough time to be there for him.
I got my wish but what happened next is hard to put into words.
I don’t want to.
Everything happened pretty quickly after that.
Funeral arrangements needed to be made.
So I took on the role of project manager – delegating tasks to my mom’s family and communicating important information to my dad’s family.
Breaking the news.
I helped my mom make decisions about the wake and funeral mass.
All the while, I kept reliving the moment my father died, thousands of times – always feeling pain.
Besides my grandmother, who was ready for the great beyond at the impressive age of 97, no one really close to me has ever died.
I guess I’m lucky in that regard, though I was totally unprepared for how my life would change after it.
Here are some things I’ve learned about managing grief while running a business.
1. Accept That There Are Days Where You Won’t Get Things Done
We might as well start by ripping off a band-aid.
A common thread I’ve heard from people who I’ve talked to that share grief over losing a close loved one is that it’s hard to get back in the groove with work.
I get it.
There are some days where I have absolutely no motivation to do anything – even though I know things are due or that I could be using my time to get ahead.
I have to ask clients for forgiveness in these moments.
I know that they understand, but I hate to be this way.
There are some days where I’m just not feeling creative and I need a certain level of that to get the day’s tasks done.
Currently, I’m reading “The Artist’s Way” to determine if there’s a way for me to push through when I’m struggling.
2. Get Out of the House
If you work from home most days, this is probably a good tip for you in general.
But it’s especially useful when you’re stuck in your own head about things that are completely out of your control.
A new environment shakes things up a bit, distracting you from your normal thoughts.
A new environment can help you feel positive when you’re drowning in negative thoughts.
3. Learn to Delegate
You will never appreciate having a team more than when you’re dealing with grief and are the stopgap when it comes to getting shit done.
I have a great team that helps me with various tasks and I’ve definitely been finding ways to lean on them more now than ever.
This situation has made me think of ways to take myself out of my business so that I can work on it when I want to (most days) but not feel guilty about expectations when I just don’t have it in me.
4. Find People Who Understand What You’re Going Through
I’ve been doing a lot of leaning on others lately.
I’m so lucky to have amazing friends and family – including my wonderful fiancé.
Most of my peers haven’t dealt with this type of grief before.
That said, I’ve been very lucky to have found support from friends and even clients.
It’s just nice to know you aren’t alone.
Other people can’t take away your pain, but talking to those who know what it’s like may help you to find ways to manage it and process your feelings.
5. Find Your Escape in a Book
Reading has been a great escape for me while I deal with loss.
It’s been nice to get out of my own head for a bit and get lost in another world.
It also makes me feel like I’m making progress in some ways because I read a lot of business books and fiction, which helps strengthen me as both a writer and a business owner.
But besides books that strike your fancy, I’ve also found solace in books about grief. I just read “The Knock at the Door” and I’m working on “When Things Fall Apart“.
6. Try Not to Overthink Things
Dealing with death made me start obsessing about my own mortality, as well as the mortality of the people that I care about.
If my fiancé is late coming home or slow to respond to a text, I automatically jump to the worst possible conclusion.
Whenever someone gets sick, I think back to my dad in the hospital, wrongly optimistic that he would get better.
I’ve never considered myself to be a pessimist but I can’t help but think this way now.
But it helps to find ways to distract myself when I get caught in one of these thought loops.
As mentioned, reading or getting out of the house can often work as a momentary distraction when you need it.
7. Set Expectations with Clients
Type A to a fault, one of the first things I did after my dad died was to email clients with projects in progress and let them know that we’d have to push out due dates.
I didn’t want them to think that I was ignoring them or lazy – I wanted them to know the truth.
Doing this gave me the time and space to help my mom in the weeks after my dad passed.
It helped me start to process what happened.
I probably needed more time off than what I gave myself, but it’s more than the average corporate employee would have gotten.
I’m grateful that my business enabled me to be there when I was most needed.
Final Thoughts: How to Deal with Grief & Run a Business at the Same Time
Everyone processes grief differently.
Once you’ve had the awful experience of losing a loved one, you’ll get why it’s so debilitating.
I hope that what I’ve shared can help you if you’re dealing with a similar situation.
I know that I don’t have it all completely right, but I learn something new every day.
Featured Image Credit: Paulo Bobita