Emerging From the Storm of Grief

Emerging from the storm of grief, hands lifted to the sun

November is Canada Career Month. This year, the theme is it’s possible. This coming month, CPC’s News Feed will feature a series of posts that builds on that theme. We believe it’s possible to create a bright future. Teagan shares her story of resilience to let us know it’s possible to emerge from the storm of grief and rediscover hope.

Teagan Foord and her Dad on a family trip to Montreal 2013

Teagan and her Dad on a a family trip to Montreal in 2013

Less than three weeks into the start of my first full-time job, my father tragically passed away due to COVID-19. As a newly-hired career professional, I felt lost. I was not sure how to approach the situation with my employer, I didn’t have many peers who’d experienced the loss of a parent, and I felt afraid to navigate the world without the protection of my Dad. I have faced many challenges in the six months since his passing and the greatest challenge has been navigating the new world of work while trying to maintain my mental health. Just recently, though, I feel that my motivation has been restored and I’m gradually emerging from the storm of grief.

The First Months

For months, grief brought a storm of feelings and emotions. I felt depressed, lost, afraid, alone, and like I was going crazy. I started seeing a grief counsellor who told me that it’s okay to just feel my emotions and take it day-by-day. Taking a “day-by-day approach” was not the way I had envisioned beginning my career. Some days, I felt like I couldn’t get out of bed. Some days, I would begin to write a short email at 8:30 AM. I’d blink and it would be 11:30 AM and I was still writing the same email. I felt exhausted all the time. My therapist taught me that exhaustion is the #1 side effect of grief.

Working while exhausted is not an effective way of working. Although I’d continuously remind myself that replying to a simple email should not be exhausting, it didn’t help. I noticed that I would begin work on Monday and by mid-day Wednesday I was absolutely drained, which meant that Thursdays and Fridays were not effective either. Outside of the storm of physical and emotional impacts caused by my grief, I am intrinsically motivated. My lack of energy and motivation was frustrating for me because I knew that I could be producing more than I was, but my body and mind wouldn’t cooperate while I was at work. While grieving, I felt so exhausted that I believed I would never feel motivated again.

Taking Control

A change needed to happen in my working life. I made space for mental health and taking care of myself. I switched my schedule to work a 4-day work week, taking a break on Wednesdays so I could put my best-rested self forward on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Within a couple of short weeks, I felt my whole life change thanks to this new way of approaching my work. I started to feel like myself again. Although I was still very sad due to the loss of my Dad, I felt like it was starting to be okay.

It was incredibly helpful that my employer supported me throughout this time. Grief is a stressful enough experience without also trying to navigate the pressures of starting that first, all-important, full-time job.

What I Learned

I learned a lot through my experience, but here are the most important tips I’d like to share with anyone living and working through a similar life event:

1. Get Help

Seek professional help either through a grief counsellor or a local grief group. I found there are grief support groups that are organized by age category so you can meet people in your demographic who are going through an experience like yours. Through finding and connecting with people who could relate to my grief, I felt my world open up a little bit.

2. Talk to your Employer

It felt scary to share how I was feeling with my employer. But, if you feel like you’re spiralling out of control, and need something to change because you just can’t function at work, talk to your employer. There are accommodations that are possible and there are options to explore. Most employers want to be kind and supportive.

3. Be Good to Yourself

It’s okay to be going through a tough time. It’s okay to focus on things that are more important than work. Life does not always follow our expectations and we can’t control everything. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Do things that are good for you. Find ways to spend quality-time with yourself, whether it’s through pursuing art, volunteering, cooking, exercising, or anything else that lights up your heart.

Empower yourself to feel your feelings as you continue moving forward. You’ll gradually find yourself emerging from the storm. Good luck!

Teagan Foord (she/her) is determined to break down the barriers to meaningful employment for women in the Niagara Region of Ontario. Her goal is to lift them and their families out of generational cycles of poverty and abuse. Through her work as Advancement Coordinator at Niagara Women’s Enterprise Centre (NWEC), Teagan is actively building a community of supporters around, and awareness of, the unique challenges women face when attempting to enter the new world of work and/or highly-skilled professions. She is an engaged and involved member of her community, focused and determined to reach her fullest potential and to help others meet theirs. You can connect with Teagan on LinkedIn

Photo by ipopba on 123RF

 

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Teagan, I am so sorry for your loss. This post is so powerful, especially coming from someone who has experienced such deep grief during a time of turmoil. It shows your own resilience and gives others a roadmap to emerge from such a traumatic life event.

Hello Sharon,
Thank you so much for your kind words. This time has been incredibly challenging when faced with starting my career while also losing a parent. Thank you for joining me to celebrate the resilience of new professionals who’ve experienced loss. – Teagan Foord

Thank you for sharing Teagan, my deepest sympathies to you as I also lost my dad this year and your words rang true for much of what I also experienced. You could add a number 4 to your check list – Reach out to your community and know they have your back. Sharing our stories helps to remind us that we are not alone. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

Hello Carol,
Thank you for your kind words. We all grieve in our own ways. Thank you for tip #4. I found my immediate community has been incredibly supportive, even with social distancing guidelines and all the changes over the past two years. We are never alone in our grief. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Carol. – Teagan Foord

I lost my dad 3 years ago, shortly after my husband spent 23 days in the hospital, and during that time I learned to focus on what really matters. I sincerely appreciate you sharing your experience and reminding me and others how important this is.

Hello Janet,
Thank you for sharing your experience. Grief can impact us in so many ways. It’s so important to refocus on what truly matters to us. There just sometimes is not enough time in life. Thank you for sharing. – Teagan Foord

Hi Teagan,

First, I’m very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. You wrote a powerful article.

I also lost my dad last year, and I can certainly relate to the struggle of staying motivated and fighting exhaustion. I thought it was just me, and your article showed me that I’m not alone. I am so glad you shared what you are going through.

One thing I’m trying to learn is not only to grieve the loss of my father, but also remember who you have left in your life i.e. other loved ones, friends, colleagues…

I wish you well in your career. I am sure you’ll help a lot of people.

Last edited 18 days ago by Giselle Mazurat

Hello Giselle,

Thank you so much for sharing. I’m sorry for the loss of your father. Early in my healing journey I was recommended to read a book called “Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss.” I found it incredibly helpful when I felt like I couldn’t function. We are not alone, it’s hard to talk about grief but our community is here for us. Thank you so much Giselle, wishing you all the best. – Teagan Foord

Teagan, Thank you for sharing your vulnerability with us. What a beautifully written article. Your father must have been a wonderful man to have made an incredible you. I can only imagine the combined stress of his passing as you began a new role – the perceived uncertainty at that time.

I lost my father-in-law after a three year battle from his second cancer. At that time I was post maternity leave (retraining my executive management and Microsoft Office skills towards future CDP/HR) whilst supporting my family planning his cultural rituals. I focused efforts assisting family wherever I observed needed: with my mother-in-law, grandchildren, house or garden upkeep. This experience and others with clients propelled me to achieve specified “Trauma Informed” training.

As a mother, who is also close to her father, I have no doubt he would be so very proud of you. That you continue his life teachings through your work inspiring women from circumstance to opportunity.

#5.) One is always stronger through adversity than they initially believe. Recognize the strength within you which made possible the small steps towards arriving at this moment.

Teagan, again, thank you for sharing something that resinates with us personally. May you continue to find comfort with those surrounding you. We are here for you as well.

Hello Tamaryn,
So sorry for the loss of your father-in-law. It sounds like it was a really challenging time. I’m glad that you were able to find inspiration in achieving “Trauma Informed” training.
Thank you so much for your kind words and your tips for finding strength. It’s so important to continue these important conversations surrounding grief.
Thank you – Teagan Foord