What’s it like to lose a parent, and be self-employed?

About a year and a half after I lost my dad to cancer, and I find myself in a really good place in a lot of ways. I’m working in a field I love, I’m doing what I believe in, I’m campaigning for social change, and I’m really happy in a lot of ways.

But the fact is, grief sucks.

Initially, 3 months in after the loss, and I had to take a month off, to deal with the heaviness. During that time, I needed to be horizontal, I needed to be asleep, and I needed to do nothing. That was the only thing running through my head at that time. That, and remembering to eat something, and wash.  

It was a weird feeling, losing someone that had been so close to me for a large portion of my life. Everyone has different experiences, and a unique relationship to a person and to a loss, and everyone has different ways of coping.

Early followers of my @annafranceshealing page on Instagram will have seen that my early posts included 9 paintings that I painted to cope with the loss of my dad. I don’t feel the need to share these publicly anymore, so I have since taken them down, but I was really grateful for the support online at the time.

For me, when grief hit, I couldn’t think about why I felt sad for the loss, I just felt it. Similarly to why I never questioned that he was my Dad, I just knew it.

The absence now feels like it has a space in my life all of its own, as if it has its own presence.

I think I’ll always view the time when my dad passed away as a significant point in my life where things rapidly changed. In very unexpected ways. Like a career change, for example.

Not long after my dad passed away, my 9-5 job contract working at a registered charity came to an end, and I realised that it was time to move forwards. This included moving on from a job I enjoyed in many ways, but also felt like it was never going to be something I would do for a long period of time – It was fun, it was low paid, and it was stressful. I took the decision to become self-employed, and I was lucky to be able to do that.

Developing a new business platform really helped to give me focus, and to give me something to aim for. By that point, I’d already started my ThetaHealing (a holistic healing modality) training a few years before on a part-time basis, and I was already a practicing artist, so it did make sense to combine the two. Starting something new and exciting was a really really important way for me to move forwards, when I was going through something like losing a parent, and I was only able to do this once I’d taken a step back for a little while.

I’m now able to work ‘normal’ working hours, most of the time.

In my experience, as time moves on, the grief doesn’t feel easier, but it does change.

It is strange as a self-employed person, because when things go well or I do something I never thought I’d be brave enough to do, the grief sometimes catches me worst in those moments than in any other time.

I know he’s in a better place than he was before, because I wouldn’t wish being that ill on anyone.

I know that the work that I do and the successes I have are because of my own drive, and that’s always been the case.

I think grief doesn’t stop you making money, but I think it does take time to get through the initial stages, and I think it’s important to talk about this. Taking your foot off the accelerator pedal I think is a key part of the grieving process, and I don’t think this is something we should be ashamed of.

In my experience, I think losing someone close to you does make you realise a different side to yourself that you may not have known before. In my case, I think this change did spur me on to revaluate what was important in my life, and decide to do something different in my career as a result.

When my Dad first passed away, I was working in a 9-5 office job, where they tended to give you 1 week off, or 2 weeks if you’re lucky for ‘compassionate leave’. It was only when I went self-employed that I decided to take more time off, because I urgently needed it, and I felt my mental health, and energy levels, going rapidly down-hill without it.

I hope the culture towards giving people time off for grief does change, because I think it can hit people later down the line if a lot of grief is left unresolved and if people don’t take enough time out.

As well as the time out, initially I was having ThetaHealing sessions, and I also decided to get bereavement counselling for a short while, and I don’t regret either of those decisions. For me personally, I believe both those methods were essential for my own healing.

Grief effects everyone in different ways, but the fact is, it does effect everyone.

With grief comes change. And I think it is possible to move forwards, and I think everyone already is.

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