What if you, an entrepreneur, experience a profound change, such as a death, in your personal world that drives your life off the road into a ditch? You know you need to move your business forward but it’s difficult to get out of bed in the morning and impossible to string a few meaningful sentences together. You feel exhausted from grief or worry. You’re afraid to admit that you can’t “perform” when your business needs you. You feel ineffectual, weak and even ashamed.
How do you get back on track while giving yourself essential space to process your feelings?
Having experienced this situation myself during the last three months due to the death of my beloved life partner, I’ve decided to share the results of my search for a path back to productivity in the belief that you will undoubtedly need this advice in the future. While I am obviously not a therapist, I’ve included some observations of my own experience that have led me back to the right path to begin moving forward.
Take Care of Yourself
Give yourself time to process. Pay attention to your needs, do what feels right for this time in your life. Let go of what doesn’t work, especially during the holidays. Doing activities such as exercise or artwork relieves stress, gives you peace and a sense of the wider world around you so that you don’t feel so alone.
Try not to push sad feelings away. Having the courage to be open to them, experience them and learn from them may feel healing to you as it has to me. One of the most important things that someone told me was that my profound grief is in direct proportion to the amount of love I had for him. This somehow made the emotions and physical effects easier to bear.
Write your thoughts down by hand on a notepad or in a journal. Your feelings and thoughts will only be for you so no need to consider content, grammar, punctuation or format. This isn’t a blog or memo to your employees. It’s simply a way to free yourself from your inner dialog by releasing it onto paper so that it can be stored there. Writing by hand may seem antiquated, but the physicality of writing and sensory aspect of paper and pen lends a different, more personal experience to the process of capturing what you’re feeling. A psychiatrist friend of mine points out that writing is a great way to figure things out too which often helps the grieving process move forward.
Ask For and Accept Help
Seek support and help from family members, friends, co-workers, religious leaders, and counselors.
I’ve had to let go of my need to be independent and be at peace with asking for and accepting help. I realized that I wasn’t being weak, I was being practical.
Create a plan in advance to keep your work flow going. If you’re solo entrepreneur, enlist a trusted friend in your line of work who can help service your accounts while you take the time you need to heal. Realize that returning to your business that you enjoy and find purpose in can give you the strength you need to move forward. However, being impatient with yourself only adds an unnecessary burden of guilt. Still working on this one.
Accept that many of the customers you work with have experienced what you’re going through. Chances are very good that they will be understanding and would prefer to hear about your recent loss or illness than have a delay go unexplained.
Give Yourself Space to “Mess-up”
Don’t add an extra layer of stress on top of the grief by being hard on yourself when you can’t perform the way you have before. In January of 2014, Heather R. Huhman, Contributor to “Entrepreneur,” Career and Workplace Expert, lost her twins during birth. In her article, “Running a Business While Dealing with a Personal Loss,” She advises to, “learn to forgive (yourself) when a personal meltdown takes place. Allow for taking more breaks than previously. Forgive the more frequent bouts of anger. Forgive what comes along that didn’t used to happen.” Let go of your need to be successful at everything.
Realize That Your Life is Permanently Changed
Once I realized that my life was not going to go back to the way it was and that I will never “get over” this loss, I began to feel more at peace and able to turn my thoughts to other things. I am still getting used to accepting my circumstance and understanding what form my life may take in the future, but now feel an energy growing propelling me back to work.
Dr. Gloria Horsley, Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, in her article about going to work while experiencing loss says, “Entrepreneurs feel the need to be strong for family members, the business, employees and clients. Yet loss is unpredictable, and it’s impossible to be completely prepared. Allow for being vulnerable to the pain experienced. Then it’s possible to learn how to cope with loss and discover a momentum to become a stronger entrepreneur and leader for the future.”
I hope this post is or will be helpful to you. I would love to read your comments on how you have dealt with an illness, loss or other life changing event that created a work/life imbalance for you and how you moved forward after it.
Some other resources that I found helpful:
A webinar by David Kessler, leading expert on healing after loss, on grief during the holidays. This could apply to anytime during your life when a significant event is approaching such as an anniversary or birthday.
An article by Lindsay Broder, “Entrepreneur” guest writer and certified business coach, on letting go and using faith to transcend life altering events.
Mary Ruth, Owner of United Sewing and Design has over 30 years experience in the manufacturing of products by sewing and is author of “Industry Sewing Construction Methods” http://amzn.to/2yMxMmk. Her focus is on design, entrepreneurship; social enterprise; the connections between the environment, the apparel industry, and manufacturing; and how owners can leverage artistic methods to benefit their business.