Coping With Loss While Running A Business.
This past week has been a difficult one. As many of you are aware, my mom has been living in our home the last eight years with me overseeing all of her care needs. It has been a challenge to say the least with running a new business, managing a household with family and looking to spend what's left with a spouse. Yet, in this post, I want to highlight the many amazing moments I have had with Mom being an integral part of the building of my business while encouraging me to "follow my dreams" despite the obstacles. I have felt a tremendous loss with her leaving and grieve the closing of this chapter in my life and small business.
I don't believe as adults we ever lose that desire for parental approval, its in "our genes" so to say. When I was in the bricks (not too long ago), I would come home after work knowing the "Mom hat" would have to go on and the next couple of hours were about meals, homework, possible drives to wherever and so on. I made the conscious effort though to stop by our living room where my mother sat most of the day. I knew she was waiting for an "update" on the shop and all of my encounters with customers which seemed to fill her with a real joy. I can only believe that for an older person there is a sense of reliving some of their own experiences as an employee in whatever capacity they were doing it in. My mind would begin to race with the thousands of tasks at hand and yet, I knew even those few moments in time were gold. How could I rush off? If I was to fully exemplify the "one customer at a time" and "live in each moment becoming aware of the need of that customer" philosophy, here was my chance to prove it. Yes, she is my Mom and not so much a customer but, you either live by what you preach or get out of the game altogether. Besides, older people lend a wisdom beyond telling in all parts of life - they have been there!
Mom spent years as a secretary working for a bank but also a local high school and finally a non-profit organization where she retired. Polished and professional, she had exemplary interpersonal skills (and still does at 93) combined with a solid work effort. Being a Mom of five like myself, she brought her every day experiences into the workplace. As a society that values work, we fail to recognize the plethora of ideas and experience the elderly can bring into a job. Many of my customers are retired high level executives who have given me valuable advice over the years. This, to me, is an area that we as business owners have yet to fully tap into.
So how do we manage the day in day out when loss enters our hemispheres? When my Dad passed almost thirty years ago, I was fresh into a position with a newly created Business Development team for a U.K based packaging design company in Toronto. My Director offered a week of paid leave but I approached the VP and asked for two weeks as I felt I needed the extra time. Was this enough to launch me right back into the world of sales and marketing? Absolutely not. I spent months working but not truly being present to the client. I tried to "bring myself back" to what I was doing but to no avail. I had not yet had the courage to grieve and until I entered into that process, nothing would change in my business or my personal life.
This is where I am at today. Mom is still on this side of heaven but, I realize I am grieving and suffered a tremendous loss in my life. So, rather than the week or two offered in the traditional work setting, I have decided to take as much time as I need to accept the change. I also decided to dig and find out what employees were entitled to in Canada at the loss of a loved one.
To my surprise, under The Employment Standards Act, employees are allowed to take up to three days as bereavement leave to deal with the death of a family member. I guess you could say, a week off when Dad passed was above and beyond thirty years back. Yet, it begs the question, do we as a society, truly respect the need in the workplace to grieve? Is the mental/emotional well-being of our employees taken into consideration with an emphasis on the person rather than the work he/she does? I am sure that there are studies that show a high correlation between mental wellness and job performance. As an independent business owner, I have worked hard with my employees to offer them the time that they need when they are grieving.
Finally, I cannot help but think our world would be a far less money-centred, self-focused place if we took the time to pay attention to the experiences of the aged as well as gave our employees the necessary time to grieve their losses. Without valuing one, we cannot possibly agree to giving the other.