Dealing with Personal Loss

I had to put my dog to sleep Tuesday.   He was 14 1/2 years old and very sick, so it was expected.   It had just been a matter of time and how to handle it with my son, who is 4 1/2 years old.    It finally got to the point where we had to make the decision.   

Most companies provide family leave of a month or so for illness in your immediate family and usually 3 days or so if a person in your family has passed away.   If you own your own business, you get nothing - the business suffers or grows depending on how focused you can be.  And even if you work for someone else,  grief doesn't fall into a proscribed time period.  And when you're grieving, your entire life is affected.  You are affected both physically and mentally.  Grief is very draining phsically and very distracting mentally.  I've mentioned The Grief Recovery Handbook before as a very useful tool for dealing with grief, but you still have to go through the process.  You may or may not be back to work and your full productiviy within that 3 days.  

If it's a close family member, you may not be.   Sometimes pets are closer family members than your relatives.   I've grieved far more for my pets than I did for some of my relatives and their deaths affected me more. But the death of a family member, expected or unexpected, is usually much more complex than the death of even a beloved pet, which makes it much harder and a much longer process.  

So how do you deal?  "Life goes on..." as they say.  We're people, not robots.  We can't just turn our emotions on and off like a switch.   Grief and loss are normal parts of life and so are the emotions that come with.   I don't think I have any answers, but I do have a few suggestions:

  1. Be extra kind and caring for yourself.  Grieving takes a lot out of you, so be patient and take extra good care of yourself for a while.  Remember you must take care of yourself first, before anyone or anything else.
  2. If you work for a company, have a talk with your manager.  Be honest about what you are going through and work with your manager to find solutions to your workload together until you can be 100% back to normal.    Don't pretend you're back to normal when you're not.  Either your job or your health will suffer in the long run. If you own your own business, advance planning is key.  The time to figure out how to keep your business going in the case of a personal emergency, whether death or disability, is before anything happens - when everyone is healthy and productive.  Having people you can delegate to and trust is important.   Maintaining good relations and open, honest communications with clients is also key.   Your good clients will be very understanding and willing to work with  you in times like this.  It's up to you to keep that relationship good so that they will be supportive when something happens.
  3. Deal with your grief and related emotions (anger, sadness, loss, disappointment, relief, etc).  Don't ignore them.  Emotions don't go away until we accept and express them.  It's like trying to put a lid on a boiling pot without turning the heat down.  It just keeps boiling until it explodes.  Often we can't necessarily express our grief whenever we feel like it.  Sometimes you have to set aside time to let your feelings out when it is safe to do so.  
  4. Get support.   Don't isolate yourself in your grief.  Grief shared is grief lessened. 
  5. If your life is affected and you don't seem to be getting better, get help.   There are professionals who specialize in working with grief and loss.

I'm still grieving but I'm dealing pretty well.  My dog's death was expected, so I had lots of time to prepare, and it wasn't complex.