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Grieving? It’s Okay To Ask For Help


Career Kuel Thought Leader: Gayle Petrillo

I’m a businesswoman with a master’s degree, a successful career, and a confidence coach.

For years, I juggled family, work, and social life. I filled my days assuring everyone was up on time, preparing lunches, working hard, and playing hard. 

We have always had an active social life, my hubby and I, sometimes together with family and friends, sometimes with our individual networks. We also give back to our community. 

My husband was a volunteer firefighter for more than 20 years in Upstate New York. Now he serves as Board Chair on a local writers’ group.

Active Leader For Years:

I was raised as a Girl Scout and was an active leader for years. Additionally, my circle of friends supported our local fire department through its auxiliary, responding to fire scenes with food and drink and raising money. Now I spend a good deal of time as Board Chair of Junior Achievement of Southern Arizona; Vice Chair of the American Red Cross of Southern Arizona; and fundraiser/volunteer for the Arizona Burn Foundation, among other contributions.

Yes, I’m busy and like it that way. So, what a surprise it was for me, right after my mom recently passed, to discover my immediate response was to back away from social gatherings of any kind. I missed two board retreats, board meetings and lunches, postponed client meetings, as well as, going to the gym, pilates class, and yoga. I hadn’t made space for grieving. 

“Yoga is helping me with meditation and focus.”

I’ve recently gone back to most of my former activities; however, I found myself staring into space, not connecting as I formerly had. Yoga is helping me with meditation and focus.

Unsympathetic To My Grief:

Firsts have been hard; ie. going to my mom’s favorite coffee shop and bakery; even driving by her community. Returning to board meetings has been difficult. People I believe are well intentioned and yet don’t necessarily know what to say. Some I learned hadn’t known about her passing and asked how she was. This, along with hugs, although welcome, brought uncomfortable tears to my eyes.

I also found myself without patience and being angry. I had an episode quite unlike me in a public place. A banker who was unsympathetic to my grief, kept harping on their policies and procedures, which the normal me would have understood as a protection for family members, but the new me retorted with unladylike curse words as I tearfully retreated to my car. 

If this sounds familiar, these are common traits among those grieving a loss. I didn’t know this; yet, as I continued to struggle, I began to realize as much as I wanted to return to my normal life, I wasn’t able to.

Then the light bulb went off, with the prompting of my husband. There are people, professionals, who assist those of us in these circumstances.

Grief Coach And Support Group Sessions:

As much as I had thought, “I can do this myself”, I realized I couldn’t. I reached out to the funeral home that had assisted with my mom’s end of life plans and they connected me to such an organization. 

“My coach has been instrumental in adding tools to my toolbox to help me weather this storm.” 

Let me tell you, after just a few weeks of time with a grief coach and support group sessions, I’m better understanding that my responses indeed are normal for those grieving. My coach has been instrumental in adding tools to my toolbox to help me weather this storm. 

I’m smiling again. Hubby, a dear friend of ours, and I went to dinner and listened to live music this weekend. I was thoroughly engaged. Last week I dreaded two upcoming client meetings that had been postponed; and yet, both meetings went very well. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was, and happily so. 

We all heal in our own time, in our own way, and sometimes we can heal on our own. Other times, we need to ask for help. Grieving is our unique journey. Funny, not really, how hard that can be, but I can tell you it’s worth the risk of whatever your thoughts may be as to why help shouldn’t be requested. Our lives, physically and mentally, depend on it. Ask. You’ll be glad you did and those who support you will be glad you asked too. 

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About the Author:

Gayle Petrillo is President of First Impressions, Image Consulting. Gayle is an image consultant working with both businesses and individuals. Her services include: customer service training; team building skills; secret shopper services; gossip avoidance techniques; closet analysis; wardrobe transformations, personal shopping; employment coaching; and presentation skills.