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Because family life matters

Grief in your own workplace

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Dealing with grief following the death of our son or daughter is incredibly hard, but when you are either self-employed or a homemaker there is even greater pressure to keep yourself going.

When you are on your own in your usual daily working environment, whether that be at home or running a small business, everything depends on you. In these situations, there is often no-one else to talk to and you can find yourself trying to cope with the massive weight of your grief on top of the pressures of your work responsibilities – and all with very little support.

Steve tells us about the challenges of his situation

“At the time of my two year old daughter’s death, I owned a tile business which was moving forward at a high growth rate. The daily running of the company was left to my small staff team for a few weeks. I returned to my role sooner than I wanted though, as basically the ‘buck’ stopped with me, and I felt I needed to go back.

The pressures of running a small company are immense and there is little room to deal with the fact that you are grieving the loss of your child. Things like dealing with a complaining customer feel so insignificant when you are coping with grief – there is just no comparison in what feels more important. As well as this, most customers and suppliers don’t appear to care that you have lost a child; they only seem focused on their own situation.

In business there is a weight on your shoulders to perform well 100% of the time. When you experience a death your whole outlook on life changes overnight. There is no insurance to payout in this type of situation – business doesn’t stop when you are grieving. The bottom line is that if you don’t work you don’t get paid; that is a big pressure when you’re trying to grieve and your family relies upon you.”

Nigel’s situation was a little different

He reflects on what happened to him:

“When Alistair died aged five, I had recently left the relative safety of employment to start a small business on the high street that opened six days a week.

In the early days life was just a blur. The business stayed afloat through friends stepping in to help, but soon I found myself torn between keeping up a public face and the fact that I was neither fit nor motivated to keep things going. However, whilst I could have easily thrown in the towel, there was no other option except to continue. I had to keep some income coming in for the family.

The worst aspect was the loneliness. Working alone with all my negative thoughts was frequently overwhelming, and I often found myself in tears in the back room. After about 18 months of struggling with this it was clear I was not coping with the business in a rational way. I wasn’t motivated, and I was letting problems pile up. Eventually it all defeated me, resulting in a complete breakdown, and costing me the business.

If you are self-employed, my advice would be to bring in a good friend or colleague, in the first instance, to help make the important decisions. Don’t think you can do it all alone; be honest about your situation. Of course this is easier said than done, but looking back, a lesson well-learned.”

What do these experiences have in common?

The common factor in both of these stories is the pressure each person felt from the need to keep on providing for their family. This can also apply to someone who is keeping the home going and looking after surviving children, whether parenting alone or whilst their partner is out at work.

Don’t try to soldier on alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Nigel’s advice, borne out of bitter experience, is definitely worth heeding. It is likely that close friends and colleagues will want to support you, but are either afraid to suggest it or simply don’t know what to do. So do try to find someone to talk to about how you feel and what you are finding most difficult. They may well be able to help you by discussing possible solutions together. See if it’s possible to work part-time for a while, with someone else coming in to help out – a solution that may also help to reduce the feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Try to be kind to yourself

If others are willing to help in some way, then do allow them. In the long run this is likely to help you survive, cope better and ultimately rebuild a healthy balance for your business, and for you personally, to thrive.

You don’t have to struggle through on your own. Bereaved Parent Support has a team of trained telephone befrienders, all of whom are bereaved parents themselves. They’re there to provide a listening ear. If you would like to be linked with one of our team, please call Care for the Family on 029 2081 0800.