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Handling Grief as a Business Owner

If you follow our social media outlets and newsletter closely then you probably know that I stepped away from everything at the end of last week due to the passing of my grandfather. He battled cancer with a strength that I’ve never seen before. He never once let on that he was in pain. And, in fact, any time I saw him, he looked to be just as normal as he’d ever been prior to his first diagnosis. Because of this, it was easy for me to assume he was getting better. Or that things wouldn’t ever get “bad” for him.

But then again, this wasn’t something I ever talked about with him. And even though I didn’t see the hard parts of dealing with this sickness, it doesn’t mean it didn’t exist.

 

Grief as a Business Owner

 

Last week I got a phone call from my dad telling me that his cancer had spread. This time it was terminal. And there was nothing anyone could do.

Terminal.

There was that word that I never thought I would associate with my granddaddy.

I didn’t know what to do, how to handle this, how to prepare my kids, what to say to my husband, how to tell my clients. My head was spinning and after crying with my dad over the phone I told my husband the news. And then I told the kids. And then I called one of my closest friends.

A few short days later my phone rang at 11pm. It was my dad again. And just like that, granddaddy wasn’t in pain anymore. It was a blow I wasn’t expecting so soon. I mean, the last time I saw him he was giving everyone bear hugs and seemed to be perfectly healthy. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye. I didn’t get to give him one last bear hug. I didn’t get to tell him that I loved him.

While experiencing the shock of his passing, I knew I needed to put some things in place before his funeral service so that I could leave for a few days to be with my family. Being a solo-preneur has it’s own set of challenges. But what in the world are you supposed to do when you don’t have a staff to lean on in times when you’re desperately needed somewhere else?

Before Leaving the State

I’m normally an extremely organized person. I rarely forget things or leave things behind. So when I got to my sister’s house on Monday and realized that I didn’t even pack myself something to wear to bed, it was proof that my head wasn’t in the right place. And in that space of time where I was just told of his passing, and the time I made it to Virginia, I think I was kind of on auto-pilot. There were a few things I did so I could leave without alerting alarms for my clients, and everything else just needed to wait.

  1. I personally spoke with the clients who would be immediately affected by me being out of the state.
  2. I emailed the clients who had current projects running. (Album printing, album proofing, editing, and deliveries.)
  3. I posted on social media that I would be out for bereavement. (On IG, my Facebook business page, and my personal Facebook page.)
  4. I prepared an out-of-office auto responder for my email.
  5. I followed up on every single email that needed a response so I could completely clear out my inbox before leaving.

 

Once those things were done, I felt much better about dropping everything and leaving for a few days. I kept my phone with me while I was gone, but not ON me all day. My alerts were turned off, and my phone was set to vibrate. I checked emails once a day and only was prepared to respond to emergencies. And I deleted spam, because I refused to let my inbox become a completely cluttered mess for me to deal with when I got home. I was looking at my phone a maximum of 5-10 minutes a day.

Let’s face it. I’m still grieving. There are things that remind me of my granddaddy and I feel the lump in my throat growing. Or I think about my grandmama being presented the flag at his burial and the tears come back. The loss is too great for something like this to be experienced and then forgotten in just a few day’s time. So the one piece of advice that I have to give to someone dealing with grief is to allow yourself the time to go through it, without guilt.

Yes, you have obligations. Yes, you are running a business and owe your client’s your full attention. Yes, you have experienced a great loss. And yes, you have family who need you right now. The absolute best thing you can do for yourself, your family, and your clients is to take some time to grieve your loss and return to your obligations when you’re ready.

Prepare Ahead

If there is one thing that I’ve learned through all of this is that I should have everything prepared ahead of time. You never know when disaster can strike, or when death can occur. It’s not a topic that I see many business owners talking about and it’s a shame because at some point, we all will experience the need to prepare for it. It took a massive life-changing event for my eyes to be opened to this need. Please don’t find yourself scrambling to figure out what to do when this need arises for you. Take my word for it, and prepare ahead.

  1. Create an email script/template to alert your clients that a tragedy has occurred and you’ll be away for a short time.
  2. Make sure your contract is up-to-date to include loss of life, an Act of God, hospitalization, and any other life changing event that may take you away from your obligations.
  3. Have a list of emergency back ups, who could step in for you and run your business if you needed them to – even remotely, if need-be.
  4. Create a document with all website links, passwords, insurance docs, serial numbers for equipment, and design SOP (standards of procedure) documents for all business related activities.
  5. Create templates/scripts for social media posts, email auto responders, voicemail recorder, or pop up window for your website to alert anyone who attempts to contact you through those outlets.

 

If you are desperately needed in a place other than your office due to a tragedy it’ll be much easier on you to have everything already created and ready to hand over to someone else to temporarily take over until you can return.

Once all of these things are done on a day when your mind isn’t forgetting to pack PJs, then you’ll be extremely thankful on a day when you have to lean on it for support and let yourself grieve, or heal, or help whenever and where ever you’re needed.

xoxo,

Amanda

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