Emerging From the Storm of Grief
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.
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.
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.