Part 1- Losing A Business: The Grieving Process
August 2015, A Therapist's Office….
Therapist: “So where is Auntie Loo now?”
Me *sobbing* “She’s dead.”
Therapist: “why can’t she be retired on a beach somewhere?”
Me *sobbing harder* “Because I've killed her. She’s not coming back.”
Every day we pass businesses closing on the street and now online. “Liquidation”. “Out of Business”. “Closing Sale”. With each sign, people feel sadness, smugness, or disappointment for themselves that they will not be able to frequent the business anymore.
But it’s rare that outside of other entrepreneurs that anyone stops to think of the human being behind that business.
I've discussed in detail my failure and nervous breakdown that led to the abrupt, unladylike closing of my business. I won't bore you with the details again, but if you missed it, it’s kind of part one of this post. You should read it first by clicking here.
Today I'll discuss my afterlife in post business purgatory.
In June 2015, I was raw. For 72 hours prior it had been a blur of dear friends showing up to help me fill the dumpster (one friend even came with a bottle of real champagne- to celebrate the “success” that was my shop!), equipment sharks coming to buy my last bits in cash so I could at least pay my staff their last checks, grief stricken customers, a few “ha ha told you so” poison emails and those who hasn't heard the news yet. After my last trip from the bakery- being driven by one of my best friends and investor- and leaving the key with my bankrupcy trustee, I came home and vomited.
The next morning I woke at 7am, poured a glass of wine and called my father. Ottawa was simply too small for me to stay and see the sadness in my friends and customers eyes. I was too raw to be diplomatic when people asked me what happened. I decided I needed time away, to “pull the blankets over my head until I could make sense of it all”, as a friend described it. I deleted my Facebook, and my partner turned off all push notifications on my iPad.
My father was here by lunch, and with the blessing of my beloved and always supportive partner Chris, off I went to my parents hamlet, an hour outside of Picton Ontario.
The first two weeks I don't think I was sober once. I took calls from friends and my therapist on my parents landline (I hadn't been able to even pay my cell bill at the end of my business so I didn't even have that). I let the local witches and spiritual healers come over and smudge and do rituals on me. My parents circled the wagons and screened every call from angry collectors and others. I took long car rides with my beloved Aunt Jean and Grandparents in Grandpa's Cadillac where they all sat me down and reminded me I mattered to them long before I had the bakery, and that I always would. A few dear friends came to see me, the remains of Auntie Loo- if you will, offering condolences and saying how much the city missed and needed me.
A few weeks in, it was time to sign my bankrupcy papers. They were fed-exed to picton by my incredible and sensitive trustee, Andrée of Collins Barrow on Moodie drive. My partner and Champagne friend dropped me off at the notary’s office. If you've never experienced this, let me tell you. You literally sign about 50 pages, every single one saying “your name, bankrupt” just below the line. I wept openly the whole time, then my partner and friend returned and took me for an ice cream. Which I strongly recommend.
Yes- that is a photo of one of my pages in this article. I have it framed in my office to keep me humble.
As time went on, I sobered up a bit but progressed into crying myself to sleep most nights, had nightmares that I was back in the bakery, watched trash tv and popped ativans. I had full blown panic attacks, (including one in front of my terrified father), journaled, tried to go for walks but just ended up eating chips. I gained 50 pounds in no time. A few times, I thought that ending my life would be easier than continuing to deal with what I was going through. Being a depressed suicidal teen prior to my mental illness diagnosis in my twenties and Meds, these thoughts- though old- were too familiar. It scared me to bits.
Come August, my partner Chris took me on a pre planned trip to France. I was chubby and miserable for most of the trip, and tried my best to put on a happy face and enjoy the beautiful country. Upon my return home, my therapist ordered me back to Ottawa. My self pity party tour had come to an end- life was waiting to be resumed.
Head down, I came back to the city.
I avoided everyone like the plague. I even remember one night walking 2 blocks over to my Champagne Friend's balcony for a private drink, running into a devoted regular who ran up to me with open arms. I was so panicked I almost threw up.
As for looking for a job, I didn't know where to start. My last job had been a sweet part time job for the incredibly kind Tony Daye, owner of the late great Sounds Unlikely Record Shop.(in the building that is now 5 Arlington.)
There’s a bit of a stain on someone who’s been self employed. First off I had failed, and I had failed very publicly. Feeling a bit of a scarlet letter burning upon my chest, I began working on my resume and applying for anything. A certain high tech firm in town that is entrepreneurship based. Entrepreneurship support centres. Business school at Algonquin College. Even reception and retail. I was broke, lost and heartbroken.
Then, a wonderful friend who owns a company threw me a line. I should apply to be their office manager, he said. And I did. And I got it. I was elated! A Monday- Friday schedule, a salary and a progressive workplace doing exciting ethical work. It was going to be my new life and it was going to be great right? Wrong.
Having been my own boss, I wasn't used to having to ask before I made a decision. I could not get it through my head that I needed to consult the people who own the business before I would problem solve. There was also the fact I had never worked in an office a day in my life and had no idea how to conduct myself- I'm polite but a pinch over the top- even for a young progressive office. Lastly, one day I had a very important revelation- I hate sitting.
After a few months we both agreed it was a mismatch and I left with love and my friend and I still friends. I'm still very grateful to him- he was one of the only people to reach out at that time, and he has my admiration always for it.
Now collecting EI, another 20 pounds heavier, I wasn't necessarily sad because the office job really wasn't doing it for me. I was utterly defeated.
Grieving a business: part 2 continues next week................