No one sets out to fail. The entrepreneurial dream is always to create a preferable future. The picture of that better future becomes so clearly etched in the mind, it makes the risk seem at times, non-existent.

So what do you do when that dream turns into a nightmare?

It’s the question I began to ask a year ago.

It’s been a year since I wrote anything public. It was the death of an employee that prompted me to voice my grief, and then turn silent. Little did I know that was just the beginning of the most difficult season of my life. It even became darker than dealing with Karen’s cancer over 7 years ago. The difference in a business failure and cancer is that no one is mad at you for the latter. You didn’t choose cancer. It chose you. When a business goes south, you have to own it, regardless of opinion, perception or circumstances.

One thing I’ve learned about loss over the years is that the grief it brings is inevitable. Everyone grieves differently, but everyone grieves. It can’t be ignored and hope that it will go away. It can be put in a closet for a later time, but it will be waiting on you. My experience shows that the sooner I stare it in the face, the sooner I can process it and move forward.

I found the most important source of help for me during my seasons of loss is to regain a sense of perspective. Loss clouds judgement, and that can lead us to make poor decisions. I’ve found there is no better way to prevent that regret than allowing a few trusted sources to speak truthfully to us.

But we still have to listen to them.

One of the most powerful sources of truth was my sister. Her life work as a nurse has taught her when to be gentle and when to be stern and that on occasion, you can do both at the same time. During one particular phone call that I was reluctant to take, she told me very clearly, “Don’t apply a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” It was a good wake-up call that led me to think about my problems differently.

Another practice I had during the dark times was to Google search stories of failure. In doing I discovered that failure is a part of the growth process and there are many more people with worse situations than me. Sometimes grief can deceive us and make us feel all alone, like no one else would even understand. But it ends up being quite the opposite. The human experience is common to all, regardless if its positive or negative, joyful or sorrowful. A shift in perspective allows this to make more sense.

There were others along the way who helped bring my perspective back into clear focus. With most of these friends, it wasn’t the advice they gave, but simply in the time they spent listening to my story. Lending an ear gave me a chance to say what I was feeling out loud. When the grief gets verbalized, it gets exposed and is no longer left hidden away. Once it enters the light, both of you see it for what it is, and its power diminishes.

Now that I can begin putting this last year behind me, I do not know what the future holds. But I do know that it will include additional grief and loss. No one escapes it. Therefore, if grief is a given, the question I now face is, “Will it keep me from dreaming again?”

What to do when the dream becomes a nightmare.
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