Working through grief as a freelancer

Photo of a rock painted with a message of grief

As a freelance business owner, you may find it challenging to carry on working while grieving. Grief ignores deadlines, clients, and to-do lists. It has no concern for your situation. The grief you feel can be even worse when your business depends on you to be on top of things.

I have recently had the desire to throw myself into work to numb the pain. But I’m not supportive of myself or my clients when I do that. I have discovered that believing there is light at the end of the tunnel is half the battle. So I wanted to share what I’ve learned from my own grief experience after my Mom passed away.

Be honest with clients

Honesty is the best policy when dealing with clients. Tell them about your loss. While you might think this will change their opinion of you, they will appreciate you explaining why you need more time and what you feel. If they don’t, I would say they aren’t a good fit for you.

I was honest for years about what I was going through with my parents. I never hid anything, which led to my clients being extremely kind when Mom died.

Prioritize your work

As business owners, we have a lot of tasks to juggle all the time. So take a look at all your to-dos and ditch the ones you can’t face or finish.

Managing my social media accounts for business was the first item I dropped. It was hard to do because I love my Facebook community, but I knew these were the very folks that would support me in putting posts on the back burner for the time being.

I also said no to a few new projects and continue to do so now. I can’t over-commit because I still have an active situation with my Dad. It’s hard because I want to help everyone, but I have to balance how I feel with what I can accomplish. Stress and grief do not mix well.

Be patient with your feelings

Grief can jump right back in the picture when you think you’ve turned a corner. The process isn’t linear, and sadness can appear out of the blue. So it’s essential to keep your workload manageable when your feelings are raw.

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and with every commercial on TV and online, I’m reminded that she’s gone. But, I’m learning patience with the process and acknowledging this might always be a tough time of the year.

Don’t make big decisions

Avoid making important decisions too quickly. When you are grieving, your outlook won’t be optimistic, but for the most part, this will pass, and you will be able to look forward again. In addition, having a clear focus will allow you to address problems in your business with more clarity.

I learned that I couldn’t handle a significant change in my routine during my grief. So instead, I’ve been focusing on small changes to my calendar and business processes.

Give yourself time

You should not expect to resume your usual fast pace when you return to work. Although you may feel better, your brain still needs time to catch up. Therefore, as you return to work, it is best to take things slowly, so you are not forgetting something or make mistakes.

I added more breaks into my day, and I have blocked out Friday afternoons at 3 pm for the rest of the summer. It’s time I need for me.

Keep a journal

Keeping a daily work journal will give you a roadmap on how to get through a loss that may happen in the future.

In my career, I have kept a daily work journal. I have been more consistent lately with journal entries, and it’s helped me so much. It’s not only reflecting on my accomplishments and tasks but also on how I felt doing them.

Life goes on

I learned this when my husband lost his parents almost 30 years ago. It is shocking for me to acknowledge that nearly three decades have passed since then. Each year, it got a little easier. The gut-punch feeling faded away, and happy memories appeared in the void.  I just need to believe that will be the case this time, too.

I’m learning to be kind to myself.

I hope if you experience a loss, you will be kind to yourself, too.

RESOURCES: Inc. – Grief Can Feel Unbearable When You’re Trying Run a Business. Here Are 3 Ways to Cope

Cami MacNamara

Cami MacNamara has 20+ years of experience running a small, profitable, one-person web design business, so she can walk her dog whenever she likes. / Twitter / Instagram