Going through the grieving process is difficult enough on its own, but running your own business while in depths of it feels like it pales in comparison. The depression, the brain fog, and the inability to take action can make it downright impossible to continue work as usual.
On May 9th, 2019, I sat in the freezing cold ICU next to my intubated father while I wrote my resignation letter to leave my career in marketing behind and pursue wedding photography full time.
My dad passed away two months later, and while I couldn’t have been more grateful to have flexibility in my new role, I was now solely depending on my own productivity and drive to support myself financially, which seems impossible when your life feels like it’s falling apart.
Here are some of the things I learned along the way about running your own business while grieving a loss.
1. Carve out Time for Yourself
Research shows that grief can impact us both mentally and physically, so making time for yourself to talk about your feelings, get enough sleep, exercise, and eat healthy food is essential to keeping your body and mind in the best possible place while grieving.
If you’re struggling to make time for yourself, ask a loved one to help you come up with one to three to-do items for your business each day. Once the list is complete, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment instead of guilt over not being as productive as you were before, and you’ll free up more time to focus on your wellbeing.
2. Don’t Expect Grief to be Linear
Grief can come and go at unexpected times. Although it would be nice, we don’t gradually get back to life as normal until everything’s alright again. You can be perfectly fine one day and then have a flush of emotions two weeks later that drags you back down (believe me, there were many times I cried behind my camera at weddings over the last year).
After losing someone, people tend to either throw themselves into their work to avoid processing the tough feelings or deal with depression and lack of motivation to continue working.
If you’re unmotivated to work, allow yourself to be proud of what you may have previously thought of as small accomplishments, and if you’re overworking yourself, try and remember it’s good to take a step back and process your emotions fully so that you don’t experience burnout.
Whether you fall into one of these categories or somewhere in between, take the process day by day.
3. Find a Good Support System
Many small business owners don’t have a lot of close friends or family who have similar professional lives, which can make your grief feel even more lonely.
Finding someone in your industry who relates and won’t judge the way you’re handling your grief is essential to moving forward. They can not only be a place of comfort, but offer advice on moving forward in your business while still experiencing the waves that come with grieving.
If you feel like you’re seriously struggling, consider reaching out to a therapist who specializes in grief. This can be an incredible resource for finding coping strategies, and its great to have someone who can keep you accountable and continually help you work through your emotions.
4. Be Vulnerable with Your Clients
As a society, grief in corporate America isn’t often mentioned despite everyone having to go through it at one point or another.
In a world where people are desperate for authenticity, using your experience to encourage others or just letting them into your world is refreshing. Be vulnerable with your clients and tell them what you’re going through. This opens up communication, allows them to connect with you on a deeper level, and lets them know that while you’re going through something difficult you’re still thinking of them and doing as much as you can in the moment.
As business owners we often feel the need to be a pillar of strength, but grief is complicated, lonely, and overwhelming at times, and we need to remember that it’s okay to take our time when healing.