Grieving at work

The space to grieve

Sadly, two weeks ago I buried my beloved father. This post isn’t about how amazing he was or the excruciating pain of losing him (I can refer you to my Facebook page if you’re looking for that!), but more about how as a busy working Mum (parent) I am struggling to find space to grieve.

Today, for example, I have run a workshop, edited a heap of content, organised two events, presented to a client CEO, taken part in two conference calls and held 121s with my two of my team.  

Last week, despite being on compassionate leave I had to complete a gruelling RFI, sign off some brand new creative and make decisions on a sponsorship deal.

In fact the day after Dad passed away, I was on the phone doing handovers which included having to download my thoughts on a new business proposal for someone else to complete. 

Of course! You might think, you’re a bloody CEO! And I know that is true. I also know I am exceptionally lucky. Not only do I have an incredible network of understanding supportive people around me, I have been able to take five full days off and three working from home. Did you know that the official allowance for compassionate leave is just three days? Three days!!! Can you imagine trying to function just four days after losing a loved one? Today is day fifteen and I am still in pieces. I am functioning but finding it hard to focus, am so fragile I know the smallest thing could set me off and if I am completely honest, all I want to do is run home, crawl under a duvet and hide from everyone and everything.

But, of course, I don’t. I keep going through each meeting, conference call, hangout, report, email and presentation. And when I do finally flop into an Uber and make my way home, I walk into a load of little people who need to be fed, washed, entertained and loved. A fridge that needs filling, clothes that need washing, a boiler that needs servicing and a house that needs running. I am not complaining, and, of course, I’m not alone. I have a wonderful (albeit very busy!) husband, an incredible hands-on mother-in-law and an amazing nanny (currently on holiday though I might add), but the overwhelming feeling that I have been experiencing is that there is simply no space for my grief. 

Everyone keeps telling me that I need to slow down, to stop, to give myself some space, get some time to myself, time to get away, to reflect, to allow my feelings to surface. But at the same time, no-one explained to me how a self-employed CEO Mum can find the time and space to do that. And, again being honest, it got to the stage a couple of days ago when I felt like I was a pressure cooker about to explode. 

Making the right choices

Until thankfully, I decided to switch myself out of ‘cause’, and into ‘effect’ ie to take control of the situation and consider what options were available to me. This is, importantly, the point I want to make. That even in the most difficult of situations we all still have choices. It’s just about being able to recognise that, especially when times are tough. 

So… in the spirit of sharing, which I guess is what social media is all about, I thought it might be useful to list the things that enabled me to create some space. Here goes:

  1. Using my commute into town to be still and quiet (some would call that mindfulness!) rather than using every second to cram in admin/do hair /make-up/emails/phone calls/social media etc
  2. Finding that gap in the diary and booking a massage/manicure/facial/lashes (I can highly recommend the latter as it involves two hours of lying down with eyes closed; ie a great excuse for a big nap!)
  3. Make time to do a good session in the gym or exercise class (boxing has been particularly useful)
  4. Take a long hot bath (and lock the door so the rugrats can’t come in)
  5. Cancel non-essential meetings with people who you know will understand and work from home as much as you can to eliminate the stress of the commute – ie give yourself a break!

So in summary, what I am saying is that I have come to terms with the fact there is no magic wand to wave, no single thing that is going to create a huge space around me to grieve in. I have to accept that fact (I have a two year old FFS – I can probably count on one hand the amount of times a month I actually get to go to the loo without interruption!)  But the answer, I am realising, is all about making the right choices to find, take, grab and relish in whatever moments you can possibly create to recharge, reconnect and simply allow yourself to breathe.