Venture Grief

It’s completely natural to grieve when you shut down a project or a business or a venture that you poured your life into. If you don’t then you are 1 of 2 things:

  1. Clinically insane
  2. In complete denial

… (or perhaps both).

Where the second is part of the natural and understood process as per psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and her study on grief and loss. Some of us work through her 5 stages differently and with different speeds but all of us work through them in our own special, unique, and independent ways.

For those interested, these are the generalized stages:

  1. Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  2. Anger: “Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  3. Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  4. Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  5. Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

We all have our own methods, strategies and ways that we cope and manage through these stages as some choose to do it mostly alone while others seek out the help and support of others. Above all else though one should endeavor not to ignore it as that’s one of the most unhealthy things to do.

(I’m not a psychiatrist nor licensed grief counselor so if you’re looking for real help then there are local sources available to you!)

Reflect. Remember. Understand.

I have experienced a number of exits from previous ventures, both on my own terms and not on my own terms. Heck, I just walked through one recently. These have afforded me the opportunity to walk through “venture grief” as I call it a handful of times and it doesn’t really get any easier with time.

This is especially true since every single one is different for different reasons and I’ll “sit” in one of the 5 stages longer or shorter depending on the venture or project or startup.

But I have found three things that I have consistently done that have helped me move through the stages with the right amount of speed without compromising the integrity of each stage and it’s importance in the overall process.

1. Write About It

I simply write about it. Publicly or privately I write about it. It’s my way of concisely clarifying my thoughts and allowing my mind to properly think through what has occurred and happened. Not everything is public and not everything is written privately; in select ways I share, not perfectly but I make my best attempt.

I have not calculated how often or for how long I’ll linger on a topic but over time I find I have less and less to say about the venture or business and eventually the topics and coverage becomes less. This is my way of healing, of processing, of repenting, of wrestling. It’s a joyous-suffering.

2. Get Back to Work

You may have heard this oft-said quote:

Idle hands are the devil’s plaything.

Generally-speaking, the colloquialism suggests that the devil will find something to do with you if you don’t have anything to do, i.e. you may get yourself into mischief if you don’t do something productive. I can remember hearing this a few times as a child and as a teenager especially.

For me it’s not that some ill-motivated power is going to suddenly rise up and control me or anything like that but rather the temptation of my mind to go to dark places. Depression is an ever-present battle and anger and bitterness can be follow closely behind.

Instead of allowing those things the chance to take root I simply get back to work. This isn’t an tactical strategy of avoidance as I engage head-on with the struggle of venture grief through my writing. It is rather an opportunity to recuperate and resuscitate my zeal for life through action and helps remind me why I do what I do.

Thankfully I’ve always had another great project to pursue that was either somewhat in-flight or that was waiting on the sidelines desperate to be put in the game. I simply resolve to take the time I need to mentally, physically, and spiritually recover and then I endeavor to get back into production mode.

And life continues to move strongly forward. I survive, people soon forget (and on the internet people’s memory is nothing longer than the next click to the newest social meme), and we discover that there are bigger things to occupy our limited amount of time.

I stay hungry, I stay thirsty, ever-pressing, until the very end.

3. My Wife

Lastly but most importantly I talk things through comprehensively with my wife. She gets the unfortunate pleasure of hearing everything from sheer madness and rage to watching me curl up in a ball and wish for death.

She is my greatest and most trusted partner and friend and there’s not much more that I can say other than I hope you have a trusted source of counsel and wisdom when you go through your venture grief.

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