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Working While Grieving

About a week and a half ago, I raised my hand and told the leadership at WeInspireWe that I would write the upcoming blog post. (This one.) I was contemplating where I wanted to go with this knowing that the end of the calendar year is often festive, filled with holiday celebrations, but also busy as we try to balance life and work, and sometimes bitter as the holidays can stir up tough emotions around family issues and loss. While all of this was rolling around in my head, I received an unexpected phone call. The worst kind of unexpected phone call. “Emmy, I hate to tell you this over the phone, but your dad passed on this morning.” The next thing I know, I’m on the floor.

It is now three days later.

My body isn’t on the floor anymore, but my emotions certainly still are…and my thoughts are.

I haven’t worked much.

I have canceled meetings sharing that I will reach out with reschedule options as soon as I can. And I have completed the clerical tasks needed to keep the business machine from grinding to a halt. My colleagues have graciously given me time and space and offered to pick up anything I need to let go of right now. I am so fortunate.

Next week will be the visitation and the funeral and all of the moments that accompany the ways in which we start to say goodbye to a loved one. For me, next week will also be a continuation of this new reality in which the grief of saying goodbye seems to show up in waves and at unexpected moments.

I write all of this not as an expert in Working While Grieving, but as a fellow sojourner walking this path with some of you reading this article. If the holidays, or anytime you stumble across this blog, find you hurting with loss, hard memories, or situations that are not as you wish they were, all while you must continue to show up at work, here are a few words of wisdom I’d like to share with you:

  • First know, like my dear friend Kate constantly reminds me, “You are not alone.” Pain is common and real even though we like to put it away, put on a pretty face, and pretend we have it all together.

  • The second concept worth pointing out is that challenging times are opportunities for us to lean into our values.

At WeInspireWe, one of the processes we often work through with our clients is a values assessment. In all kinds of situations, it helps to get crystal clear on what we truly value, and what makes us - us. It allows us to see the ways in which we really show up in those values and the areas where we have opportunities to grow to become more authentically ourselves.

As I sit at this computer, struggling with brain fog, distracting memories, and questions about what I need to do at work and what can sit for a while, I am leaning into my values. I am making intentional decisions about how I want to spend my very limited energy reserves right now. Faith and family are at the very top of my list followed by my own health and well-being. I am spending time in prayer and meditation. I need that perspective and support right now as I am making myself available to hurting family (even though my normal inclination would be to wall-up and retreat).

It won’t be long before the demands of work increase and are eventually back in full force. As I progress through this, I will use this filter for decision making:

  1. Can I do this and honor my values right now? Remembering what those values are.

  2. Is this deadline urgent or can this wait? Really, can it wait?

  3. Is there anyone who can help? I need to be okay with asking for help.

  4. How am I eating, sleeping, and exercising? I am shocked at the physical toll grief is taking on my body. I have to be intentional to keep myself healthy.

Sometimes I would ask my dad if he was okay after a tough situation, and his response would be, “I’m okay. What other choice is there?” While I can assure you, I am not okay, he was right that I still need to show up, press on, and be who I need to be for my loved ones and for my colleagues. So, I will be Working While I Grieve. And when the unexpected waves of loss rush over me I will know:

  • I am not alone.

  • I can prioritize how to spend my energy.

  • I can resist the need to do everything and only focus on the important things.

  • I have people who will help me.

  • I will feel better if I take care of myself.

Be well, fellow sojourner.

Emmy Beeson, The Change Coach, has dedicated her life to educating and serving others, knowing that by growing within, we can grow others in more significant ways. Emmy knows that by asking key questions, one can open up and discover a whole new way of approaching the world. If you're ready to look within, schedule a free strategy session with Emmy today.

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