9 Steps Entrepreneurs Can Take to Bounce Back From Losing a Loved One
We can’t help but celebrate entrepreneurs and their achievements. Who wouldn’t want to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Elon Musk anyway? Dazzled by their legacy, we tend to see only the tenacity and the genius behind these entrepreneurs' successes, rarely the human mortality at the fringes of their personal brands.
Entrepreneurs are human beings first and foremost and, notwithstanding their tremendous contributions, all of them will wave a final farewell sooner or later. Steve Jobs already did rather prematurely at 56 and the world felt a tragic loss. We all felt bad when the Apple CEO passed away in 2011. But how should entrepreneurs manage grief when the loss is personal?
Recently, I lost my mother following her eight-year battle with cancer. Like Steve Jobs, she also passed away at 56. She was, and is even more so now, the driving force behind the motivation for everything I do. Everyone admired my mom for her generous spirit, but what struck me more about my mother was her rock-solid perseverance and faith. Through her, I learned firsthand the best lessons about grit and determination I’ve ever had. That’s the most underrated but the most powerful characteristic of my mother that I will take with me as I face battles of my own.
Based on my experience and those of other entrepreneurs who shared how they coped with grief, here are some ways that can help you move on with greater wisdom, strength, energy and focus after a heart-rending personal loss.
1. Give yourself the time and space for grief
Despite the advances in automation and AI technology, you are not a robot. Unlike machines, human beings are wellsprings of emotions — they're the building blocks of our creativity and the fuel that drives our desire to do good. Never fight an emotion when it is warranted. Grief and pain are two of the most powerful human emotions, and they will eventually make you stronger. Realize that the process of moving on takes time. Be patient and don’t push yourself too hard. Take as much time as you need to grieve.
2. Don’t let loss make you less
Bouncing back tests your character, builds leadership and becomes part of your legacy. Everyone will experience harrowing pain and grief at some point. But no one wants you to remain in mourning the rest of your life, especially your loved one who passed away.
3. Surround yourself with positive people
During times of grief, you can count on two types of people: your loved ones and individuals who are on the same mission as you. Your loved ones are people who love and care for you, especially on an emotional level, including your closest family and friends. These people want the best for you and will be around to get you through.
The other support group consists of colleagues, mentors and acquaintances who share your passions and goals. These are the people who will remind you to stay focused on your vision and not get pulled down.
4. Realize that you are the one responsible for your own life and success
You can seek advice and comfort from loved ones or mentors, but ultimately, you must make the decision on what’s best for yourself. Switch from dependency to becoming independent and taking charge. Over-reliance on people can erode your personal strength and chip away bits of your entrepreneurial fire. There will be a time to pull yourself together and start walking unaided. When that time arrives, seize the opportunity to rely on your own strength. You'll become stronger in the process and lead your team with greater vigor.
5. Let the rebuilding begin
Once you gain the strength to pick up the pieces, start putting things back in order again. Realize that while it’s important to grieve, it’s also important to recognize you have a life and mission to fulfill. So even while you’re still mourning, be open to taking the smallest of steps moving forward to rebuild. Start getting feedback on what’s happening in the business while you’re gone, and begin working by helping to resolve small, achievable issues.
6. Have risk-management and communication plans
Communicate your situation with your team and your clients. Delegate important tasks to the best team members and assign someone to coordinate with your clients to ensure their needs are being taken care of. Update your team and your customers about your status and tell them when you’ll be out of action and when you’ll most likely return to work.
7. Have faith
Death is an overwhelming reminder that we don’t control everything. But we can control how we react to unexpected things that happen in our lives. It is during these times that many people are compelled to ask fundamental questions that only life coaches, philosophers and theologians normally discuss. For many people, the key is to believe that life has a purpose and that life is meant to be lived for something a lot bigger than yourself.
8. Succeed with impact
In honor of your loved one, commit to succeeding with impact. Never let loss make you less. No one benefits when you take that route. Instead, gain strength by focusing on the positive aspects your loved one has left you as a legacy. After grieving the loss of a loved one, celebrate life and become a better person and a better entrepreneur.
9. Make loss and legacy a part of your journey
In what way has your loved one influenced you for the better? What lessons have you learned from your loved one that have helped you overcome specific challenges? Remembering our loved one’s legacy and celebrating their life is also important. Take the nuggets of wisdom you’ve learned from your loved one and use them in your own journey as a person and as an entrepreneur. Cherish the past but look positively on the future.
If you, too, are going through the healing process of losing a loved one, or you know someone else who is, my hope is that you can embrace this journey and make it something special.“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” —Steve Jobs, 2005 Stanford commencement speech