How to Move Past a Work-Related Loss in Four Not-So-Easy Steps

burning manuscript

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Several friends of mine have been commenting on Facebook recently about losses and struggles at work, including one friend who recently saw a project shut down that she’d put a year of work into. I didn’t know how to respond when she asked what to do with that, but now I have a couple of ideas that I think can help all of us with our creative and work-related losses (which are often the same thing).

Step One: Mourn

It’s important to acknowledge the loss, really feel it and mourn the loss of what you thought would be. This can manifest the same way any other grief might — anger, tears, angry tears, whatever — but it’s essential that you let that part happen.

burning manuscript
Burning my manuscript was part of my grieving process. I waited years to do it, which was bad.

Another key, though, is to not let that go on for too long. We are not here to wallow or throw pity parties. Life is about moving forward. Staying too long in Grief Land keeps you from growth and opportunities that are out there for you. Which is why it’s important to move on to…

Step Two: Find the Takeaway

Life is always giving us lessons, and there are big lessons in times when things don’t work out the way we expect. Right now the only lesson you may be getting is not to trust X ever again or the feeling that you need a new job where your opinions and work will be respected more.

That may be. But try to bring yourself out of the hurt and look for lessons that can really help you going forward.

When I wrote that knitting book that turned out awful, part of the lesson for me was never to work with that publisher again, but part of it was also to work harder on my end to produce something of great quality and to ask questions and be willing to fight if I need to for my work to be presented in its best light (again, I’m still super proud of that book and the projects are great; it’s just ugly).

Step Three: Rally Your Supporters

I’m so glad that these people who are having frustrations, roadblocks and losses are sharing that and asking for help and support, because that’s exactly what you need to do to be reminded that you aren’t alone. You could do it privately or in person as well if you’d rather, or to a small group of trusted friends on Facebook.

You don’t need to rehash all the gory details, but you can say “I suffered this loss and it sucks and I need some support” or even just “someone say something funny or share some good news,” which will help take the focus off your problem for a little while.

One friend who was struggling last week said she needed to hear good things and she got everything from it’s sunny and it’s Friday to the fact that she’s a great mom and that working for yourself is always worth it, even when it’s hard (that one was from me).

let go move forward
Photo by Alexandre Dulaunoy via Flickr.

Step Four: Move Forward

What one little step can you take that can make you feel even a little bit better about what has happened? Can you explore other places to take your pitch or find a way to do part of the project on your own?

When you’re dealing with an issue at work, maybe you can talk to someone about what went wrong or just firm up support within the office. If a book deal or another creative project goes awry, maybe it’s editing or reslanting your pitch or even thinking about publishing the project yourself.

Or maybe the next step is an afternoon off, enjoying the spring sunshine and realizing that things are probably not as bad as they feel. Giving yourself the kindness to not see the failure of a project as a personal failure is probably the best thing that can come out of this sort of situation.

How do you move forward from creative or work-related losses? I’d love to hear your tips.

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  1. I try to remind myself everything happens for a reason. Usually in the end things turn out better. I’m working through this exact thing with my first book. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I think it’s really important to not skip step 1, mourn. I think sometimes people skip over this and then it festers like a splinter we never get out. It will come back to us later if we don’t spend a moment recognizing that it hurt. Love that you encourage people not to wallow, though.

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