At some point in our careers, we face disruptions in our personal lives that can rock our world. Some life changes can be happy, while others can take our breath away. Be it divorce, personal health, the loss of a loved one or in my personal case, the death of a child, these challenges can make time stand still. It was the recent loss of my beautiful son, Adam Lamar Russell, that paused everything around me.
Many of us are taught to put up an invisible shield that separates our work and home life, but it seems impossible because many of our waking hours are spent at work. Those lines often blur. As a pregnant woman it really gets hard because people have seen us for months as our belly gets bigger, our walk gets a little different, and we prepare to take some extended time from our work family. I’ve found that when we experience something so tragic, it can be particularly hard returning to the office for a few reasons. People want to avoid us because they don’t know what to say or we have to brace ourselves for the congratulatory remarks from people who have no clue about what we went through. It’s a tough position.
No matter the life situation, how do we show up fully present when our heart and mind are consumed? I am no psychologist, but I don’t think we can. I think that many times when life hits us hard, we find ourselves just pushing through. Everything is a process and we have to honor and work through the process. It’s not something that goes by a prescribed man-made clock – bereavement leave, maternity leave, or some other form of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). And this only speaks to those who have the luxury of extended time away.
What I am learning bit by bit is to be gracious with others as they maneuver around me, accept that giving my best can change each day and that there really isn’t a shield. Life is life and our work is a part of the life we are building. Although we sometimes set boundaries by not talking about home at work or vice versa, it’s difficult to not let the emotion seep from one to the other. We aren’t robots but we can persevere through some of life’s most challenging times by honoring the experience and doing what we need to return to some sense of normalcy in our lives.
P.S. I have found journaling to be helpful. What do you do when life hits you hard?
Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.