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Grief and Growing a Business: My Journey

May 14, 2024

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to have this conversation. First, I want to welcome you to this emotionally-driven yet empowering topic. I’ll be sharing about my grief journey while growing a business – holding that duality.

So many of you who follow me on IG have messaged me about how telling my story has helped if you’ve lost a parent or loved one. I’m sending you the biggest hug and wrapping my arms around you as you continue healing. Healing is never finished – it’s truly a journey.

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The Loss of My Best Friend 

I want to talk about the loss of my mom who passed away in February 2021. For those who don’t know, my mom was literally my best friend. We talked every single day. She raised me as a single mom until I was 9 years old. It was just her and me for a long time. I know 9 years isn’t technically long, but it felt like forever. I truly believe I’m one of her most favorite people ever. I say that with pride.

Let me take you back to when this happened and where I was. In July 2020, I’d started my business, gotten my LLC, and called my mom to tell her I named it Vera Jean Media – after her mom, my grandma. Witnessing my mom’s relationship with my grandma was so powerful. The lineage of strong, resilient women shaped who I am.  

My grandma passed my senior year of high school. Mom was 44 when she lost her own mother at a young age too, after losing siblings when she was little. Witnessing my mom continue growing through that grief was my first teacher on resilience. I never realized that until preparing for this.

8 Months Into My Business

It was 8 months later in the thick of building my business when things were great. We were about to hit that 6-figure milestone. I had just gotten engaged in November. Then in February, I got the call from my sister who had found Mom – she had called 911. I was frozen. I was at home in Brooklyn with my fiancé, 8 weeks away from our wedding. 

I don’t even know what emotion I felt. It’s still a blur. Mom had survived a brain aneurysm in 2015 that I was by her side for every step of the way. I’d take the bus between NYC and Massachusetts constantly to help her and the kids after her surgery.  

So when I got that call about Mom, I just knew my life was changing. I hopped in an Uber to get to Massachusetts since there were no rental cars. During that 3.5 hour Uber ride, my phone rang. My sister hadn’t texted me back about how Mom was. That’s when I knew. 

My stepdad called to tell me she had passed away. That’s when my life changed forever. I lost my best friend.

I’m so grateful I had my other best friend with me in that car for support through it all – being there for my brother, sister, family. It was such a blur of shock. I don’t know if you ever really remember all of it.

The Highest Highs and Lowest Lows  

I went back and forth about calling off the wedding we had already planned. But I asked myself, what would Mom want? She loved my husband. So I got married – holding the highest high while experiencing the lowest low. It was so hard.

I ended up taking some time off work. It was just my assistant Francesca and me at the time – shout out to her for holding me down! I let my one-on-one clients know I needed a break.

After the wedding, I went on a mini-moon and unplugged. Of course, I let social media know Mom had passed. One of the biggest signs I was doing something right was the huge outpouring of support from my community and clients.

I truly believe God gave me this business at the exact right time – to start building something to pour my energy into when I needed to step away for a while but couldn’t wait to return to it. It fueled my soul. I knew how much Mom wanted me to do this.

I remember telling her when I got my LLC named after Grandma – she cried, she was so proud and excited about the legacy and lineage I was stepping into. That resilience and strength has really shaped our business’ mission and values.

Does any of this make sense? I don’t know. But just telling the story is helpful for me, and I hope for you too.

The Best Businesses Have Communities of Support

After losing Mom, the outpouring of love was crazy. The flowers, everything. I’ll say it again – the best businesses are built with communities that support you in your presence when you’re showing up, but also in your absence.  

I remember coming back to social media after hitting 10K followers. My account started growing like crazy. We started getting people into my program. It was no coincidence.

But there were huge emotional hurdles I faced after losing Mom. Days I didn’t want to work or show up or keep building this thing. What kept me going was my support system.

I remember going live on social media, forgetting what I was talking about. I said, “It’s not long after my mom passed away. To be honest, as I say it, I halfway believe it and it’s breaking me to tears. I’m still going because even when it doesn’t seem like things are working out for my good, I believe they are.”

It was hard for me to believe that while also just wanting my mom back. But I believe in God’s hand over my life, his promises, and what’s to come. Now I have two amazing guardian angels in heaven.

Navigating Grief as a Business Owner 

One question I get a lot: How do I maintain focus and motivation when grieving as a business owner?

For me, it’s so important to build in time for myself – whether that’s blocking off Fridays for therapy, reading Mom’s old journals, FaceTiming my siblings, or whatever helps me take a step in my healing process that day. Journaling is huge too.

I also listen to myself when I don’t feel like showing up or if it’s a harder, sadder day. I don’t force it. That means planning content ahead, leaning on my team more, not showing up and being okay with that – being real and honest with myself.

My faith has helped too – staying rooted and connected to God, asking Mom for signs, believing she’s with me when I talk to her. 

Resources like therapy are #1. It’s also nice having a couple friends who have lost their mothers and are further along, so I can talk to them since nothing prepares you for this loss.

For entrepreneurs grieving while building a business, my advice is: 

Talk about it. 

It’s so hard, but talking helps me remember Mom, embody her strength, help others, and keep from bottling everything up inside. It’s tough but freeing.

I really want to emphasize the importance of reaching out to others for support and speaking/talking about your story and situation. I have days where I just look at my husband and cry and when he asks what’s wrong I just say “Nothing, I’m just sad” because it comes in waves.

Grief isn’t easy. I’m navigating it every day, over 2 years later. It’s still very fresh. I’m doing the best I can – that’s all any of us can do.

Thank you for reading this emotional blog post and holding space for my vulnerability in sharing this grief journey, because it is a journey, not a destination. You have to keep working at it. 

The only thing I can do is wrap my arms around anyone feeling the weight of grief. One thing people always told me is that my mom gave the best hugs. So if you’re grieving or sad, I’m giving you one of the biggest hugs my mom could ever give.

Be sure to catch the Building Unapologetically Podcast for a deep dive into more topics just like this.

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