Grief Gratitude and Business - Andrea Vahl

2021 was supposed to be SO much better. But the first 7 months were terrible.

At least for me personally.

I thought we’d be coming out of the pandemic, we were hopefully more self-aware of our issues as a country, and we would hopefully get to gather again.


  • My dad had bladder cancer surgery on January 6th and came out of it with very little memory and didn’t really recover the way we had expected.
  • We had to dive deep into the world of Medicare to figure out a new plan for him and found out his skilled nursing care would cost close to $10K/month after his benefits expired.
  • We had to pivot the plan for my mom to move out of their home they lived in for 43 years
  • I traveled back and forth between Colorado and Chicago to help with care and moving.
  • I was still recovering from my divorce at the end of 2020 and had to buy a new house in a very volatile housing market and move in which was extremely stressful.
  • Other unexpected family health challenges popped up and were dealt with.
  • My dad did get a bit better with memory recovery but ultimately died peacefully 3 days after his 84th birthday in June.

And add a lovely ganache of continued Covid restrictions on the top of this and you get a crappy first half of 2021 to put it mildly.

Luckily, the bright spot of all of this was that my business continued to grow and thrive despite all the challenges.

At times it wasn’t pretty and I failed in some areas but I weathered the storm.

Running a business amidst grief and turmoil is HARD.

I’ve listed a few of the lessons I took away from dealing with grief and business. I’d love to hear yours in the comments below if you have any to add.

#1  Don’t try to do everything the same way

You can’t. 

I had to stop posting, stop blogging, and stop creating a lot of content.  I had no energy for it. 

I was worried that my business would suffer because of it but my business was fine.  I still got new clients and kept my current clients.

#2  Get really clear on what the most important activities are in your business (and in your life)

I realized the only things I needed to do were to take care of my clients and course members as best as I could.

I also tried to get as much to my team as I could (but some days I was the road block).

I didn’t worry about trying to do everything.

I said no to a lot of things.  And I dropped balls on communication.

Some people were angry that I wasn’t even responding and one person called me selfish.

But you have to be.

#3  Don’t over-promise

This has always been a hard one for me because I’m a “Yes – and” type of person who thinks she can do ALL the things. 

And I found that some days, all I could do was lay on my bed and cry. 

This rule is much more important when you are going through grief because you don’t know when those days will come. 

I had so much less energy and brain space than normal because I was switching gears so often.

#4 Give yourself grace when you fall

I didn’t do everything perfectly. 

I did fail some clients and had to give them refunds.  I felt bad but I “thought” I could take on more than I was able. 

I wasn’t perfect in communicating with them what was going on because I was still trying to be a hero.

#5 Don’t rush the process

Grief is a process.  It’s different for everyone and there is no time table.

You also will get hit at unexpected times with waves of grief.  A song, a thought, or a photo can derail the hour or the afternoon.

#6  It does get better

I was so foggy and so sad for so long that I was worried I would never feel normal again. 

But there was a day that I was at my desk working and I thought, “Hey, I feel energy again!  I am having a complete thought and it doesn’t feel draining.”

I know everyone says it gets better but it’s hard to believe it when you are just so sad.

Ultimately I feel extremely grateful for my business because of the flexibility it offered and the ability for me to spend so much time with my family.

I got to easily travel back and forth and take time off when I needed to. I also got to financially contribute to expenses so that my parents didn’t have to worry about the crazy bills.

I know that there are so many people who are dealing with so much more and fighting through more challenging battles than this.

My dad lived a very long and very full life so I feel extremely lucky about that. But it still sucks to lose your parent or anyone close to you.

At one point, when my dad was sick, someone I was talking to in person had seen a post about my dad and mistakenly thought he had died. She said “I’m sorry for your loss” and I didn’t correct her. I *was* experiencing loss.

And we all have with this past year. I almost think we could just say that phrase to everyone with what we have collectively been through. “I’m sorry for your loss and your loss and your loss.” We are grieving.

I still miss my dad so much. He was a wonderful man and a champion of refugees and people who needed a little extra help.

Here’s a Facebook post I did with some memories of him:



My dad was an entrepreneur before I knew what that even was. He had his own business and I remember him being worried about providing for the family, bills, and employee challenges.

I feel like I got some of my entrepreneurial spirit from him. I saw that it could be done and you could have a good life despite the extra worry.

Whenever we were out at a restaurant or he would get some ice cream he would say “Man, this is livin’.” He taught me to appreciate the little things and just appreciate being alive.

Ultimately, gratitude will get us through anything. Lockdowns, death, heartbreak, health challenges, storms in our business, and whatever life throws at us.

Dad, I am forever grateful for you.


Dad and I with filter