Letting Go in Business: How to Grieve

Letting Go in Business: How to Grieve

In a recent episode of “The Art of Change” radio show that focused on “The Entrepreneurial Journey” – http://boldbravemedia.com/shows/the-art-of-change/ – my guest, serial entrepreneur and Founder of the Westshore Women’s Business Network, Deb Alcadinho, talked about grieving in relation to shutting down a business; and she recalled one business in particular that was challenging to let go of. On reflection, it struck me that in business we don’t usually talk about grieving[1] and perhaps we need to.

In the third step of the Art of Change Framework[2], “letting go” is the work associated with the ending phase of a change or transition.  According to organizational theorist William Bridge’s work, when we make a change it is important to do the internal psychological work, which he defines as the “transition”, in order to readjust and reorient ourselves to our new external reality. How often do we do this in life let alone in business?

I’ve launched four businesses since the early 1990s and realize that I didn’t take time to grieve any of them. When I no longer felt “juiced” by what I was doing, a new opportunity would present itself or I would think “What do I really want to do now?” and then think of who might be someone in that space to approach. Then, I would be off and running to the next project, or iteration of my business. I really didn’t take time between those changes to get in touch with my feelings or to process my emotions. So I’ve started on a journey to do that, and am openly sharing with you insights gleaned along my journey.

At this point in my life I am choosing to only do things that are fun and bring me joy. I’m noticing with my new “Art of Change” radio talk show that I’m energized, excited and having fun. I appreciate having a new focus in business and it aligns with my core values of contribution, adventure, connection and love of learning.

I’m also consciously filtering opportunities that come my way through a new lens; that of will it bring me joy and is it in alignment with my core values? Do I have space in my life for this based on what else I’ve committed to?

I love the feeling of spaciousness I’m creating. I consciously spend time in nature and notice when my body needs a “nature hit”. I look forward to my bi-weekly Women’s Circle and include philanthropic opportunities and a Women’s Business group in my schedule. I make time, more and more, for friends, and continue to cherish special moments with my partner and my family.

I feel like my priorities are shifting and with that a sense of no longer wanting to strive (which I thought I let go of years ago), but rather to thrive. To me that means awakening each day with a smile on my face and a song in my heart; feeling strong, healthy and flexible in body, mind and spirit; learning and growing through reading and courses; creating the program for my radio show; beginning to write a memoir; consciously tapping into and asking my heart and gut: What do I really want to do now? What will fill me up?

I consciously choose to let go of worrying about things I cannot control and instead choose to focus on what I am grateful for and what I can “control”.

In summary, how can we grieve in business? Here are a few helpful strategies:

  • Take the time to tap into and express your feelings if you are shutting down a business or changing direction. Ask yourself – How do I feel about this? Relieved? Sad? Lighter? It’s helpful to journal about how you feel. If you have friends, colleagues or a loving partner, you may find it helpful to share your thoughts and emotions with them.
  • Ask yourself: What is my experience with endings? Do you find them difficult? Do they cause you pain OR do you typically “Just get on with it” and not take the time to feel or process those emotions?
  • Celebrate and acknowledge your accomplishments. This can include spending time journaling about what they are, inviting clients and staff (and/or contractors) to a party to celebrate the end of that business and how everyone has contributed to it. It can be a small gathering of friends and colleagues who respect and honor you; where they can share how much they value you, how you supported them and you can also share your gratitude for them and how they contributed to your business success.
  • Reflect on and write down the lessons learned from that business (i.e. what worked well, what didn’t and then build on your strengths and learn from/shore up your weaknesses moving forward).
  • Make a list of what you are choosing to let go of and consciously release those emotions and beliefs from your body.
  • Remember that grieving takes time. Give yourself that time to feel, heal and to rest.
  • Spend regular time in nature. Being among trees reduces your heart rate, reduces your blood pressure and increases the number of natural killer cells your body produces (i.e. strengthens your immune system).
  • Practice mindfulness (e.g. body scanning, mindfulness walking meditation, listen to guided meditations).  These practices get you get “out of your head” and “into your body”.

I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve grieved past businesses. Does this idea resonate with you? I welcome your comments and suggestions below.


[1] “Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” (source: https://www.griefrecoverymethod.com/blog/2013/06/best-grief-definition-you-will-find)

[2] For more on “The Art of Change Framework” refer to: https://pamela-thompson.com/fear-change-overcome/

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