Here’s what my grief and anticipatory grief looked like:
- Crying alone or to my husband
- Snapping at my husband
- Fighting reality
- Grasping for answers, scrambling from one thing to the next
- Desperately trying to avoid the loss
- Putting off dealing with it
- Comparing myself to others
- Denying it would happen
- Not fully committing to moving on
- Feeling like a failure
But when you’ve committed 5 years of your life to something, I suppose all of that is to be expected. And just knowing what grief is and looks like doesn’t mean you’ll do it better – better than others, better than you thought you would. And the more you give and dedicate your time, energy, mental space, waking and (supposed to be) sleeping hours, into someone or something, the more you’re going to grieve when it’s gone. And even worse is when you tie that work and energy into your identity. Ugh – how do you give something your all and yet not feel it’s a piece of you?
Well I don’t have the answers – but I can look back now and tell you where I went with my grieving process and how I began to move on. It all started in October 2016 when my husband and I got great news – we were pregnant and expecting in July! And just like that, as if maybe some chemical reaction out of my control took place, everything shifted – my priorities, my focus, where I wanted to put my energy. And not in the conscious way of thinking “I love this baby so much, I’ll do anything for it!” Puh-leeeeeease. The baby was the size of a poppyseed, and besides shock, I didn’t feel much (sorry if that’s disappointing, but it’s true). I remember looking at the positive pregnancy test, looking into the mirror and thinking “this is the moment where my life changes forever.” So okay, there was some conscious thought involved that shifted, but there was a whole lot of emotions that shifted that I couldn’t connect to any thoughts I recall experiencing. But I did realize, my life was changing, our lives were changing, and not just at home.
I had spent the last 5 years chipping away at the long list of to-do’s one has as a small business owner:
- Attend networking groups
- Create products for your clients
- Update your website
- Meet with an SEO guy 3 times and never commit
- Decide you’ll have to figure out SEO on your own
- Decide you’ll never understand SEO and you’ll have to meet with the guy again ————>
- Create services for your clients that never come to fruition
- Attend conferences, network some more
- Pick up your computer when you get home to keep working because you’re the boss and can always find work for your employee (also you) to do at all hours of the day and night
- Listen to audio books on your commute to hone your skill
- Listen to audio books to improve your business skills
- Work with an awesome business coach with incredible ideas and encouragement
- Feel ontop of the world
- Feel hopeless
If you’re running your own business, you can probably relate. But my attention was always divided. I had 2 days a week to work IN my business, 5 days a week to work ON my business, and then 30 hours a week I worked in a completely different job. I liked to imagine that rather than being “scattered,” I was just strengthening the parts of my brain that were good at shifting gears. And I wanted to imagine I was doing it all seamlessly, but let’s be real – I wasn’t, and those ups and downs that every business experiences, hit harder because of it.
So fast forward to October 2016 – me, in my pajamas, staring in the mirror with a pregnancy test in hand, and the shifting emotions and the swirl of thoughts. And as the shock and excitement over the pregnancy set in, the grieving began. What will I do about work? What will I do with my practice, my other jobs, my commute into Denver everyday (okay I won’t miss that part), with the flow (or lack thereof) of my life at the moment? If I didn’t have a deadline, I would do everything in my power to keep moving forward, to make both locations as successful as they can be. As I began to assess where I was in my business, where I had hoped to be, and where I wanted to go, all those things I mentioned at the top of this post began to happen.
I tried on different imaginary versions of life post-baby:
- Avoid the loss: My work life remains the same, I split my time between my practice, my other job and The Therapist Toolbox, life becomes way more complicated, childcare is nearly impossible and the financial stress of it causes me to seriously question my life choices
- Bargain with the loss: What if I just make some tweaks, try some things I haven’t tried before? I started to bargain – I began working with a company to get on insurance panels, I took the leap I’d been wanting to take and signed up for an intensive (and expensive) trauma training, I thought I can do this, I don’t need to experience this loss. I’ve been working with an awesome business coach and I KNOW, if I do everything we’ve discussed, I can make this work. But my deadline is approaching…
- Deny the loss: Put it off, do the whole cross-that-bridge-when-I-come-to-it approach, i.e. be woefully unprepared and spend the months leading up to in full on panic because denial felt easier than problem-solving and grieving
- Face the loss: Try something new, and make space for all those thoughts and feelings I was trying to get rid of, just face it
Needless to say, I worked my way through all the options, and by now it’s probably fairly obvious that Option #4 was the ultimate victor. I began searching for opportunities that would actually improve our lives when baby comes and by finding some acceptance, I opened myself up to what I hope, and think, is going to be an amazing opportunity.
So come June 30th, I will be officially closing my Denver location of my practice, and winding down with any remaining clients I have in Longmont. Beginning the month of April, I will begin working 1 day per week at a group practice in Fort Collins, with plans to increase my hours there after a 3-month maternity leave that will end in October. When the opportunity presented itself to take this route, I was finally ready to say “yes.” I had spent the last 7 months grieving my impending loss, and like so many other losses, something new (and this time actually exciting) is coming out of it. I’m certain there are things I have yet to grieve when it comes to closing my practice – will I be able to have some of the freedom and creativity I love about my practice? Will I miss the business side of my business? What do I do with all these cool letterpress business cards I just got? And things I cannot predict.
Thank you to my therapist community, family, friends, and all my clients who have made this venture more than I could have imagined and more than I ever knew was involved. I’m still here through June 30th, seeing clients on Wednesdays, and look forward to what’s to come. And if you are ever in need of a referral source in Fort Collins or Loveland, I hope you’ll think of me. On to the next chapter my friends!