Desk with a newspaper and cup of coffee on it

Inspired by Hospice UK’s ‘Dying Matters Awareness Week’ theme of ‘Dying Matters at Work’ this year, local writer, Suzanne Bird, tells us about her own experiences of grief and how she’s framing it alongside her working life:

We all need space in our lives. We need the space and time to have fun, to process our thoughts, to read, to do our admin, to garden, to walk in the sunshine, to be still, to deal with the menopause perhaps, to spend time with those we love. And space to grieve.

Why is it so difficult to make that space for ourselves? Perhaps it’s the old question: should we work to live or live to work? And when is it time to prioritise one over the other?

I recently decided to end my marketing communications contract with a great business. I worked with them for 7 years and 9 months, and my role evolved and changed as the company grew. I loved working for them and I believed in their purpose, but I gradually began to feel it was time for me to go. I needed the chance to step back and decide what’s next for me. I was too busy to think straight and I needed to create that space for myself.

Many people have experienced a lot of loss over the last couple of years. I have too. Clearing a lifetime’s possessions – clutter and treasures – from the home of those you loved most is a profound, moving and altering experience.

What do I want to leave behind when my time comes? Definitely not the mountain of ‘stuff’ that fills my own attic right now! I started to think about streamlining and decluttering my life, to give myself more time to do what I want to do, including giving time to others.

I wouldn’t liken myself and my little one-woman business to the achievements of Jacinda Ahern, but her resignation planted a seed of thought in my mind that grew like a dandelion in a lawn. It wouldn’t go away. Was it the right time for me to quit too? Not to be too morbid, but the recent deaths of several middle-aged women – Lisa Marie Presley was six weeks younger than me – also made me wonder if I am making the most of my time while I have it!

I took the plunge and left my biggest client. Not all of my clients, but the one that brought me the most revenue (and the most stress). I spent two months gradually letting go, creating comprehensive handover materials and editing others’ writing until they perfected the ‘company voice’ I’d created. I felt emotional about leaving but I never thought I’d made a mistake.

One month into my new ‘space’ and I miss that job a little, but mostly I feel I can breathe more freely. The reduced income is downright scary and my grief is filling a lot of the space I’ve created, but I expected that. I was aware that I needed space for my grief – looking back, I knew that this was part of my rationale for seeking the space in the first place – but I wasn’t expecting the grief to rush in quite so quickly. It’s all right though. Grief needs to breathe too. This too shall pass.

I have the summer stretching ahead of me to relish the free time that I’ve gifted myself. I’m still working, but I’m not filling up that gap. After the summer, maybe I’ll find a new major client, or maybe I’ll simply pick up extra copywriting here and there. Who knows?

What I am sure of, is that I need this space. Mine was a fairly drastic way of getting it, but ‘quiet quitting’ is not my style and something had to give. I believe we could all benefit from creating more space in our lives.

Why not stop for a moment and listen to what your heart is telling you? Do you need to find your own way to create more space, to make the most of living, or to grieve for those you’ve lost?