Inside my heart is breaking
My make-up may be flaking
But my smile still stays on
Queen – The Show Must Go On
Dealing with bereavement is difficult whatever your circumstances, but what happens if you are also self-employed?
When you’re employed by someone else and coping with bereavement, there is normally plenty of support available (plus compassionate leave if you need it), but if you’re self-employed it can be very different. You often don’t have the luxury of taking time off from your business, particularly at short notice, so ‘holding it together’ becomes a priority.
I faced this situation recently, as I lost my dad at the start of February after a short fight with cancer. Although it wasn’t unexpected, he did decline quite quickly and passed away within a week of being admitted to hospital. Alongside this, I have been trying to establish a new self-employed ‘profession’ for myself in internet marketing, having given up a 15 year career in accountancy last summer.
In hindsight, in those early days I think that being self-employed was actually a blessing, because I had a reason to get out of bed and start working.
So how do you cope with bereavement when you’re also trying to run your own business? These are the things that I found have really helped me so far:
Planning and lists
I admit that I’m really not the best at having a clear, structured plan and tend to rely on scribbled bits of paper for reminders. However, I have found that listing out every task that I need to do has been a lifesaver, even the tiny minute things like filling in my son’s reading diary or getting the tumble drying in.
It means that if I’m having a sad moment, or haven’t slept well, then I can almost go on to auto-pilot because everything is documented out. It also means that I have a good means for distracting my brain, as there’s always something that needs doing.
This has been key for me, as I’ve always had a tendency for my mind to escalate and then I will start over-thinking things. That’s not to say that I actively block thoughts out; more that I distract myself when I know that my mindset is not rational or clear. The thing that distracts you is very individual though, and should occupy your mind enough that it won’t wander. You can ‘park’ your thoughts and come back to them at a suitable time. Writing them down to revisit at a later time is great for this.
Ask for help
If you’re anything like me, you feel that you’re the one in control of all of the plates spinning. This is the one time that you should let it go, and ask for help. It’s just a temporary thing, and doesn’t mean that you’re not still in charge, you’re just acknowledging that there’s something else really significant taking up space in your consciousness.
For me, it was asking relatives to take care of our two children for a couple of hours. It meant that I could knuckle down and be distracted by work (and feel that I was still on top of everything), plus the kids had a great time! It was also great practice at relinquishing a bit of control to others, and we all survived!
Obviously we all deal with bereavement and grief differently, and it will vary a lot depending on your personal situation. Hopefully these tips can help you to focus and ‘get through’ even the smallest amount of time.
A Note From Brilliant Together
A big thank you to Gemma for doing this guest blog for us. I know from first hand experience just how hard it is to focus on your business and keep everything moving when you are going through a bereavement; I lost my father just as I was launching Brilliant Together. Some days you feel like giving up – it all feels way too hard, but others the excitement and challenge of your own business is enough to drive you forward and keep you going, eventually the pain and sense of loss becomes easier and life carries on. Following Gemma’s great advice will help you navigate through those hard days and keep going. Remember you’re not alone and although this feels really tough now, it will get easier.
If you have some great business advice you’d like to share and would like to do a guest blog, please let us know: firstname.lastname@example.org