How to work during grief

Life throws things at us we’re not prepared for. Unexpected. Heart aching. Gut wrenching.

How can you power through your work when your heart is broken and your mental awareness is pulled in multiple directions? Carefully methodical. When life throws me curves, I take a moment to sit still. Brush aside the events, focus on tasks. Not projects.

Projects, the big all encompassing ones, are too overwhelming for a psyche reeling from emotional turmoil. It’s better to break work down to small, simple manageable tasks that can be completed quickly and easily.

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Breaking things down to small tasks permits us to continue accomplishing work that needs doing, without having to think too much, or plan too far in advance. It allows us to get through the day and be productive, without weighing us down.

This past week my brother was diagnosed with liver cancer at age 54. After losing my great grandmother, grandmother, and mother to cancer it wasn’t so much of a shock, but more a why now, and why at such a young age.

As if this wasn’t a big enough kick in the gut, yesterday an emergency visit to the vet ended with one of my dogs also being diagnosed with cancer. He’s only four. If your animals are like mine, they’re your children. They’re family. And the ache is just as great and as hard to deal with as my brother’s diagnosis.

So today I find myself pondering life, what’s important and what isn’t, the ticking clock of my own life, and yet still needing to get work done.

I admit, I’m not real motivated. My enthusiasm is greatly diminished as I wonder when my own time will be up. How I can help my brother more. How I can hug and kiss my Valentine enough before I have to say goodbye.

But I also know that I must work, regardless of my personal crises. My clients, while respectful of my family matters, still need their work done. Regardless of what is happening.

In order to not throw my business to the side, and lose my clients, I know that I need to break my tasks down to small, easily checked tasks. Work can continue. Tasks will be completed.

It doesn’t take away from my hurting heart, but it allows me to focus a little bit at a time, and take breaks when I need to.

Whether you’re dealing with a break up, death, or news too sad to comprehend, find ways to cope with your responsibilities. Work, home and farm (in my case) doesn’t change just because we have an emotional upheaval to deal with.

Create an environment for yourself that gives you freedom to grieve and work at a pace you can handle. Fully focus on one at a time.

Definitely give yourself space to grieve. But be disciplined enough to carve out some space for work too. Easily managed, small tasks will help you focus and give your heart a small reprieve from the anguish you’re dealing with.

How am I coping today? Not very well actually. But it’s time to make a list and get a few things done.


Shelly Haffly

Creative Director
Shelly is a 30 year veteran of the graphic and digital industry, having worked with and for the nation's leading Fortune 500 companies. A driven, no-nonsense kind of gal who works tirelessly to help clients build their business to epic proportions.
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