My father passed away this May and I often find myself struggling between grief and productivity.  My attention to work has greatly diminished and even though owning your own business alleviates the “getting fired” aspect, a decrease in productivity means that your business is stagnate.  There are days that I’m super charged and motivated and then there are days where I can’t muster any intellectual thought at all.  In fact, I have jotted notes down about no less than 20 blog topics, but I’ve not been able to muster the energy to sit down and actually write one.  And, I know that if this is happening in my grief, others are likely wondering the same thing….how can I balance intense grief and stay productive?  Below are five tips that might just help you get moving on your journey to productivity.

1.  Realize that you’re not alone.   You have family and friends that can help through grief – regardless of what your grief looks like.  Sometimes it’s not huge things or end all fixes.  For instance, they might complete the small things around the house that you normally do – like grocery shopping or mowing the lawn.  No one – absolutely no one – expects you to carry on as if nothing has happened.

2.   Know the cycle.  Grief has been widely researched and the stages of grief are well documented (shock, denial, bargaining, guilt, anger, depression and acceptance).  When someone close to us dies, our central processing unit is flooded with attempts to accept a reality that is completely unacceptable.  Our attention span, memory and problem-solving abilities diminish, we may feel disoriented, overwhelmed by tiny details and unsure about whether we can function in this new reality.  That’s all normal.  Personally, I’ve noticed that my attention while driving is horrible – I miss turns on normal routes, have no idea which direction I’m headed and have been disoriented and lost on more than one occasion.  Small life tasks such as this, especially if it’s a proficiency that you had before the death, can be frustrating.  Try taking a moment and realizing that this is all part of the grief process, that there’s no way you can still operate at the same proficiency….and then make some space to appreciate that you are actually normal and that you’re working in the grieving process (so you are indeed being productive).  Seeing opportunity and positivity will bring a ray of sunshine into an otherwise dreary space.

3.  Give yourself permission.  To be unproductive.  To feel.  To experience.  In retrospect, I wish that I would have told clients that I couldn’t “coach” for a month.  Instead, I tried to plug through it and then realized that I wasn’t performing in the capacity that met my standards and ultimately refunded fees for that month.  Giving ourselves permission to not be our “normal” selves allows us to allocate energy to the grieving process – and if we “play all out” in our grief, we actually move through the process more fully and often times more quickly.  Know your companies bereavement policy and don’t be afraid to use it – it’s there for a reason.

4.  Trust in a “new normal”.  Loved ones will tell you that you will find a new normal – a new way to move forward.  Although that may be the last thing that you want to hear, it will happen.  Trust that a new path will emerge and you will figure it out.  Over the course of my life, Dad often said “you’ll figure it out kid”.  As difficult as it has been, those words have offered a moment of peace in the most difficult spaces.  Trust that you will figure it out….maybe not today or tomorrow….but you will.

5.  Appreciate that you can feel.  Having appreciation for the personal hell that we’re walking through is hard.  And yet, being a person that can feel is important in emotional intelligence.  Tragedies will shake us like an earthquake….and they also force us to grow roots that sustain us for the rest of our lives.  They’ll help us be more aware and offer us the opportunity to connect to others in ways that we couldn’t before.  So, as exhausting as feeling is, it’s better to be a feeling person than to be a non-feeling person.  Remind yourself of that….often.

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