How To Run A Business When You're Grieving

Firstly, if you’re reading this because you've frantically googled, like I did, because you have to, then I'm so, so sorry. You probably can’t believe it right now, but your bones will stop aching and you will once again be able to laugh through the tears.

But right now you can’t see the wood for the trees. I know. And you're not here for because you're looking for something to make you feel better, you're here for practical help.  I know because I was you.

 Last year, my world turned upside down in flash. I lost my amazing mum very, very suddenly. She was too young and too full of life.

Those early days are a bit of a blur, but I remember sitting down at my computer, a few days after we’d got home from hospital searching “How Do You Run A Business When You’re Grieving?”.

There weren’t any answers out there. I got nothing back that could tell me what to do. I just wanted someone to figure it out for me. My business wasn’t what I wanted to think about (and I don't think I could have physically focused even if I'd wanted to.)

But I had responsibilities. I was about six months into my new business, I was building up my DIY PR membership. I had clients. I had people who were paying me money to deliver. I needed to figure it out.

So I’ve written this in the hope that it helps someone else out there. With hindsight, this is what worked for me.

I must flag now, I'm not a grief expert and everyone's experience is unique to them. So this is very specifically what I did and what I found worked for me. 

  1. I switched off completely. I sent an email to everyone I worked with, I was very open about what had happened (you can’t really pussyfoot around it). I said I was taking two weeks offline and I would be back then to pick things up (it ended up being more like three until I could face switching my work brain on again.)  But remember, the people you work with are human beings with their own family and their own sh*t to deal with.  They will understand.  I think I offered people are refund if they wanted it for the time I was away, but no one took my up on it. Like I said, they’re human beings.
  2.  I prioritised my mental health. I was acutely aware that I needed to prioritise me and my immediate family in order for us to get through in one piece. I did what was best for me. That meant, as I came back to work, letting go of some pieces of work that didn’t bring me joy.  I made short term financial loss because in the long run, it meant that I was working on things that I enjoyed so I didn’t dread work.
  3.  I gave myself time. I remember when I came back, blocking out big chunks of time around things like calls and meetings (which I scaled back on a lot at the beginning). Anything that would use up my energy, where I had to be “on”. I would go for walks with friends who I could sob with. Or I might just go back to bed and try and shut it all away.  Again, I sacrificed things financially, and I know that I’m writing this from a position of privilege that allowed me to do that. But I really think that taking things slowly and not putting too much on my plate helped me to grieve properly and preserve my mental health.
  4.  I leaned on friends who offered to help (and I probably could have done that a bit more thinking about it). God my friends rallied. I’ll be forever grateful to them all for the things they did for me during that time. People offered to step in, a friend took on a client that needed things delivering asap. I offloaded where I could and others just stepped in to pick up the slack.  And I let them. You can become a bit proud when you’re grieving. The thing that worked best for me was to not that that get in the way. It also helps people to know they’re helping too. So lean on the people who offer it. That’s what they’re there for.  
  5.  I prioritised. For me it was my Dad, my children, my immediate family. For others I imagine that throwing yourself into work for a bit will help you. But make sure that you’re prioritising the right thing for the right reasons. This isn’t a time to be a martyr. You do you.
  6.  I was reminded that people are inherently good. When the world’s taken away one of the most precious things in your life, it can be really hard to see the good that’s out there. You can become angry. I had to keep reminding myself what I’d started and why. Remember that people are on your side. And if they’re not? Well you don’t want them there anyway. I’ve realised that life is too short for me to take on clients or work that isn’t aligned to who I am and what I do best. This gave me a chance to pause and reframe what I wanted to get out of my business and work with the people who I wanted to work with.
  7.  I was reminded that work can be a welcome break. My work actually became a lovely hiatus from the grief – what I was on calls with people, or doing work that I could focus on, It gave me a brief interlude from the heaviness that comes with grief. Slowly but surely I realised that I could enjoy my work again and I actually looked forward to it (and still do).
  8.  I connected to people who understood. During the most intense time, the months after mum died, I found I was connecting to so many people who were going through something similar. I’d not noticed them before really, but they’re everywhere. The stranger on Instagram who understood how I was feeling, the client who’d been through something similar where we bonded through misty eyes on Zoom.  The person in a business group who sent me articles that had helped her. The ex-colleague who sent me poems.  I found that it helped me hugely to connect with people who were going through a similar experience. They’re out there if you want to find them.

So that’s my advice. This is what I wish I’d read when it first happened. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken anything in. Maybe I would.  Would it have changed anything I did? Probably not because we all have our own unique experience of grief.  But it would have helped me to read something by someone who’s gone through it. To know in some way that I wasn’t alone, that I would get through it. Because you will too.  I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but you will.

Please feel free to message me via Instagram or email me [email protected] xx


If you're looking for other help with grief there here are some resources for you:

The Grief Space 

Mark Lemon



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