Business & Grief: lessons from working while mourning the recent loss of my mother
February 22, 2021
Death is a punitive reminder of our mortality, a rude expression of the old adage that one day we will all perish just like those that have gone and left us behind. Once you remain alive and breathing, you’re bound to experience grief.
My mother passed away a week ago and it has been as daunting as it has been revealing. The moment my sister set eyes on me that late evening, she fell on her knees, arms to the skies and let out a long, loud, hair-raising roar of despair.
She has a business and has been struggling to keep herself together since. She will overcome this in time. I have a business and still feel like I got hit by a train that day. So how does one grieve and work?
GRIEF IS AS A BUSINESS RISK
When Mr Asare called, he was the first to mention that my being at work would be moot because of the way that grief is. Not that I can’t work now. He’s technically saying that my grief is bound to have an effect on my work. Ergo, my being at work is a risk to the company.
And he’s absolutely right.
When my wife’s boss heard the news, she almost instantly told her to take as much time as she needed off from work. These people understand that for the business, a literally malfunctioning employee should be sent for repairs.
The delight and curse of running your own business is that the buck stops with you. As an entrepreneur, your main product, which simultaneously is your prized intellectual property, is your brain. Grief messes with that.
Delegation is never easy with business owners, at least not for those that don’t own mega corporations.
DEFINITELY TAKE SOME TIME OFF.
Grief is more than just sadness. That much is true. However, I am seeing that it can manifest itself in many different ways. Common traits of grief include depression, anger, denial, shock, confusion, disbelief, despair and many others.
Any version of any of these is not the ideal state to be in at the workplace. You’ll probably end up doing more harm than good. Also, it would be wrong to put your colleagues and customers through that.
It should be expected for you to feel that you can do more for your business as you grieve. Do what you must and try to find actions that don’t get you engaging so much with the outside world. That’s how you take some time off. Limit activity. You have to admit to yourself that you need to grieve and allow yourself to go through it.
GRIEF IS A TIME FOR REFLECTION
While taking time to reflect on life, your loved one and what’s lost and gone, utilise your reflective tendencies by assessing your business, how it’s run and where it’s headed. A lot of things will reveal itself as you have been forced to take a couple steps back.
Maybe things run just as smooth and you realise that you have more room for growth than you think. Maybe you realise the strengths and weaknesses of your staff. Or maybe you see that the ground on which your company is standing is shaky.
Whatever it is, the reflection will be useful. Most businesses are jolted into growth out of necessity. At the point of grief, you will realise the utility of an improved business offering. You will definitely realise the need to create additional revenue streams, borne out of your appreciation for the line “anything can happen”.
As businessowners, life is often fast paced. I have to follow in Alan’s footsteps and learn to pause. Every now and then, he goes to a remote place like the mountains to meditate. Currently, my head feels denser. My thoughts feel intertwined. I really would like some meditation about now.
IT’S TIME TO THINK SMALL
That doesn’t sound right, but it is. As entrepreneurs and businessowners, business development takes the bulk of our time and effort. It looks, sounds and feels just right to go after that next big client. That’s not wrong. But it’s not the right primary strategy either.
Alan has also mentioned some time back that I should concentrate a little less effort on trying to get the next big client and more on smaller gigs, and then build from there. I now see how that is good advice.
Smaller gigs are the foundation for non-mega corporations. Any project I have with smaller companies is much more secured in my absence than bigger ones. The breeds stability. It breeds steady growth. And most importantly it breeds predictability. During grief, when you realise that no one knows tomorrow, predictability, if you have any, would be your best friend if you had many small gigs like a couple of big ones.
The human being stands alone as one unit. The next unit of which you are a subset is the family. A group of families form a community… a group of communities form a society… and so on and so forth. That’s the basic concept.
We are social creatures. This is never as evident as when “abusua” sits to talk. That’s when you realise there has always been a roll call and once you’re alive, you are marked as present whether you knew about it or not.
My abusua is around and is talking. Seeing them, I am reminded that just like ants, I am part of a bigger structure with characteristic and unifying culture that makes us all “one”. If I need a business connect, I attend conferences. When in grief and need comfort, think community. Fall on your family, nuclear and extended, to be there for you. Many of them are grieving just like you.
In my personal opinion, the labelling of “family”, “community” or “society” is really dependent on the level of interaction. A family need not be a small number of human beings. Likewise can a society be as big as the whole world. “The Ghanaian Community”. “The American Society”. All these labels are because of the context of the interactions happening at that level.
If you look online, you will find grieving communities you can be a part of. The closest one to you is your relatives. But there are also online communities you can be a part of and they can get really specific. What’s good about finding empathy is that it’s proof you’re not alone. That can facilitate healing, even growth.
TRAUMATIC GRIEF vs ANTICIPATORY GRIEF
When painful things happen, a little understanding of what is happening to you takes away some of the hold it has on you. Reading on grief and asking questions help me understand and react better to what is arguably the most painful thing that has happened to me so far.
There are two types of grief: Traumatic Grief and Anticipatory Grief.
Traumatic Grief often occurs when the loss of a loved one is sudden, violent and/or unexpected. Trauma combined with grief can literally change your whole world. This type of grief is hard to resolve for it leaves you with little or no time to get used to the idea of losing a loved one before they go.
It’s extremely difficult dealing with traumatic grief. The mind tries to hold on to the loved on in any way that it can. Pain is also triggered by the least of things in this case. That’s why the bereaved try to hold on to any physical artefact that is in any way connected to the loved one. Many times, even a sheer memory can trigger despair.
About 10% of people experience unusually prolonged, complicated and intense grief. It’s complicated because that is when medical help is recommended. Some people within this 10% even require help from mental health professions. Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy is still is the most common go-to.
Anticipatory Grief on the other hand occurs before the loved one dies.
Maybe, you one day get news that a loved one has a terminal illness, or that they have a short time to live. That gives you some time, no matter how little, to prepare for their devastating but inevitable exit from this earth.
That time spent being aware of the loss cushions you somewhat emotionally and mentally. It allows you to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done. Many times do we hear people say “I wish I could say one last thing before he/she died”.
With anticipatory grief, you can say that one last thing so it’s understandable if this isn’t as harsh as traumatic grief. Still, grief in any shape or form is harsh. Many people with this type of grief will get ridden with depression and despair and often require grief counselling.
WE ALL GRIEVE DIFFERENT.
I’m still not sure which of the stages of grief I am currently in. I mean, I let go once a while and cry my eyes out but you should see what’s happening with the scores of people pouring into the house in tears. It is something.
The death of a loved one is like the flick of a switch, a nasty reminder that some important things will never be the same. Let that change be for the better. Think bigger picture, Take better care of yourself. Find an outlet and don’t let it all get bottled up. Pray. Write if it helps. This writing helped. Exercise. Reflect. Find solace in community. And understand that the inevitable has occurred. You owe it to them to live as well as you can.
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Maxwell Ampong is an Agro-Commodities Trader and the CEO of Maxwell Investments Group. He is also the Official Business Advisor to Ghana’s General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) of TUC Ghana, the largest agricultural trade union in Ghana. He writes about trending and relevant economic topics, and general perspective pieces.
LinkedIn:/in/thisisthemax Instagram:@thisisthemax Twitter:@thisisthemax Facebook:@thisisthemax Website: www.maxwellinvestmentsgroup.com Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Podcast: www.anchor.fm/einu Mobile: 0249993319
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