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On the 11th December 2023, my world was turned upside down and inside out when my darling Dad unexpectedly died. Dad was my inspirtation and one of my biggest supporters in everything I did, both personally and professionally. These have undoubtedly been the most painful and difficult months of my life and I’m still grappling my way through. My heart has been telling me that nothing else matters, nothing is as important as coming to terms with my loss, but my head is screaming at me to pick up the pieces and that there is still a life to be lived – and business must continue as usual. 
I’m living in a grief bubble, but what I do know is that I am not the only business owner going through this, so how do I move forward? My whole life and career have been about helping others and hopefully this blog may resonate with someone else who is going through this. 
In this blog, I highlight the unique difficulties faced by the self-employed during bereavement and offer some basic strategies to cope during such a challenging time. 
Personal Loss Meets Professional Responsibility 
Grieving the loss of a loved one is a profound and deeply personal experience, and its impact can reverberate through every aspect of life—including work. For those who are self-employed, the challenges can be particularly complex. There’s often no clear separation between work and personal time, making it hard to find space to grieve without worrying about business obligations. The need to maintain continuity in your business can feel overwhelming, highlighting the acute challenge of juggling professional responsibilities with personal recovery. 
Without the structured support systems that often accompany traditional employment, managing both business obligations and emotional health can feel impossible. 
1. The Isolation of Self-Employment 
One of the most significant challenges of being self-employed is often the isolation. Without colleagues or a built-in support network, dealing with grief can feel particularly lonely. The absence of peers to share daily concerns with or to cover for you in times of need can make it tough to find respite from the dual demands of work and emotional processing. 
2. The Need for Continuity in Business 
Self-employed individuals frequently face the pressure of maintaining business continuity. There is no "sick leave" for grief, and the reality of needing to keep the business afloat can add an extra layer of stress. This is particularly true for solo entrepreneurs, like me, for whom taking time off can directly result in lost income or missed opportunities. 
3. Lack of Formal Bereavement Policies 
Unlike employees in a company, self-employed individuals do not have access to formal bereavement leave. The flexibility of self-employment can be a double-edged sword: while you can technically take time off whenever needed, there's no structured support or guaranteed paid leave to protect your income during such times. 
4. Emotional and Physical Toll 
Grief can manifest both emotionally and physically, affecting concentration, decision making, and overall health. For those managing a business, these effects can compromise the quality of work and the ability to engage with clients or projects effectively. The need to "put on a brave face" can be exhausting and unsustainable. 
Strategies for Coping 
Despite these challenges, there are strategies that can help those self-employed manage their business while navigating grief: 
1. Create a Temporary Plan 
Adjust your workload to accommodate your current state. Recognise that your capacity for work might be diminished temporarily and adjust your workload accordingly. Consider simplifying your commitments, delaying non-urgent tasks, or finding interim help to manage crucial business functions. 
This might mean scaling back projects, extending deadlines, or outsourcing tasks temporarily. Clients understand that life events can impact work, especially if communicated transparently and professionally. Most people will understand and empathise with your need to scale back temporarily. Honesty can often lead to more support and understanding than you might expect. 
2. Leverage Your Network 
Reach out to fellow entrepreneurs, mentors, or professional networks. They can offer practical advice, emotional support, or even temporary assistance with your business. Networking groups specifically for self-employed individuals can also be a valuable resource. Don’t hesitate to communicate with clients or collaborators about your loss. 
3. Establish Boundaries 
It's important to set boundaries between work and personal time to allow space for mourning. This might look like designated working hours, turning off notifications after a certain time, or setting autoresponders on emails to manage client expectations. 
4. Seek Professional Help 
Consider consulting with a grief counsellor or therapist. Professional support can provide strategies to manage the emotional rollercoaster of grief while balancing the responsibilities of self-employment. Tap into networks of other entrepreneurs, join support groups, or connect with friends who understand both self-employment and the grief process. These connections can provide both practical business advice and emotional support. 
5. Prioritise Self-Care 
Finally, remember to take care of your physical and mental health. This includes getting enough sleep, eating well, engaging in physical activity, and most importantly, allowing yourself to grieve without guilt. Allow yourself time to mourn. Practicing self-care is essential to maintain both your emotional and physical health during this challenging time. 
Navigating grief while managing a business is undeniably challenging, but with the right strategies and support, it is possible to honour your emotional needs while keeping your professional commitments. The journey through grief is uniquely personal, and integrating your work into this process requires patience, flexibility, and self-compassion. 
I want to personally thank ALL my incredible clients, ALL of which not only provided me with unconditional emotional support each and every day since my Dad got rushed into hospital but also continued to renumerate me for my services despite my absence. I am truly humbled and forever grateful. 
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