Building a Grief-Centered Business + Support Shaunga’s Sick Leave

Dear Otherworldly Giants,

I have an announcement: As of today I will be taking a sick leave for the rest of March-April 2020.

During this time my main priority during this time will be my health, rest and recovery.

This month’s letter is a little different because I wanted to tell you a little bit about how/why I made this decision and how it relates to building a grief-centered business.

There are a lot of narratives in me/around me that told me I shouldn’t take a break; that I can’t take a break.

At the same time I have a clear sense that if I don’t take this time off – I would be opening myself to serious long term consequences to my health that I would rather not provoke and inflame.

The same clear sense tells me that if I DO prioritize my (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) health at this time, I will be grounding myself in serious long term benefits to my health, work, creativity, and all my relationships.

For those astrologically playing along: what I’m describing in my personal astrology is a Saturn square to my chart ruler (Pluto, in modern astrology) transit. Every 7 years Saturn makes a hard transit to the same point in the birth chart. The last time I went through this transit, I officially quit working for the non-profit industrial complex after getting really sick. Whenever Saturn visits, we are meant to make decisions that have major, long-term, tangible consequences. 7 years later, those consequences will come back around the bend, intensified. So if we ignore the physical reality of our situation, or if we decide to push past our limits – there will be consequences. If we choose to be accountable to ourselves, to prioritize our health and well-being – there will be (good) consequences!

In a larger sense, I am always learning and unlearning, blooming and unwinding, shedding and growing into what it means to build a business that is truly sustainable for me, a business that is truly compatible with me, a business that loves me as much as I love it – so that we can truly grow and thrive together in a long-term partnership.

(Because, yes, if you are an entrepreneur, your biz really is just another important relationship in your life. Creating and growing a business that is the right ‘match’ for you, is just as complicated and rewarding as finding/cultivating compatible long term relationships!)

Like a lot of people living with disabilities, chronic illness, neurodivergency, or who are chronically grieving, my work style and energy flow doesn’t fit into the ‘norm.’ The way my energy functions, I usually thrive in short periods of intensive, expansive bursts of creative energy, with long, slow, quiet periods in between.

I used to look at myself with a certain amount of judgement and shame – like why can’t I be more ‘disciplined’, why do I always have to crash so hard, why can’t I just figure out how to have a consistent output of work and therefore a consistent income?

I actually love working hard. I truly adore and need a joyfully RIGOROUS work environment!! (Exclamation points because even naming a rigorous work environment excites me *nerd*). I love pouring my energy into intense, collaborative projects when it’s with the right people. I love immersing myself in complex, nuanced, in-depth learning experiences. But even here, I do need long, slow, quiet spaces in between everything I do – to integrate, to listen, and to rest.

From a place of survivorship, as well as one of my core archetypes (the Magician), I have trained myself to push past my limits, to ‘discipline’ myself when that’s not actually the right choice for me, to work too rigorously for too long, or take on too much without resting or stopping when I need to.

I’m really grateful for all the mentors, friends, community members and awesome people in the Universe who have taught me there is nothing wrong with building a business that supports and uplifts my inherent nature. Not only is it okay, it’s actually kind of essential to invest in a business that aligns with how my energy naturally functions and flows, instead of trying to fight against myself.

Purpose.
Process.
Connection.
Creativity.
Communication.
Composition.
Inspiration.
Transformation.
Intimacy.
Enthusiasm.
Adventure.
Expression.
Death.
Grief.
Love.

These are all central qualities of my business, and of my life.

Over the last few years, some of the most powerful ways I have connected with others through my work, my art, and my voice, has been through grief.

Grief is a central part of how I function. Grief is a central part of my medicine.

Grief is central to who I am, maybe because joy is central to who I am.

Maybe it’s my Big Gemini energy (Sun). One twin is always grieving; one twin is always laughing so hard she’s almost peeing her pants. (Both are always telling stories.)

Maybe it’s my big Scorpio energy (Rising). A child who embodies death with her first breath is humbled into an everlasting love for life itself, in all living beings, and in herself.

Maybe it’s my Big Sag-Neptunian energy (Moon). Because grief was my first teacher, mentor, mystic sage, and wise counsel, who has shown me how to love.

If I know that grief is a central part of my life and work, I must ask myself – what does it take to run a grief-centered business? If I know that communicating a language and understanding of grief, creating a container to transform with grief, is a core medicine I share with my community and through my work – what does it require to build values, practices, relationships and systems in my business to support my own grief?

I worry a lot about how I will ever be able to build a sustainable business when I know that grief is always around the corner. I worry a lot about what I’ll do if I ever have to quit entrepreneurship – knowing that most 9-5 work environments are not accessible for me: most jobs will inflame my chronic illnesses and would not support my caregiving schedule, especially as it is right now.

I know how my grief functions – I’m usually fine for a while, I’m trucking along, and then something unpredictable and overwhelming happens and it just. takes. me. out.

Whether it’s my grief, supporting a loved one’s grief, getting sick, or taking care of loved ones who get sick…or knowing that I am in a time in my life where in the next several years I will need to prioritize my role as caregiver / primary caregiver to aging and elderly family members (human and animal).

This is what scares me the most: I know from experience how overwhelming and devastating it is, how expensive it is, how unpredictable it is, and how impossible it feels, to usher a loved one in their elderly years through to their transition. I know that it’s impossible to truly prepare for both the big moments and the tiny every day details. I know how lost you feel when you’re in the middle of it. I know the great and humbling limits it puts on your life, your choices, and your circumstances.

I’m scared that I won’t be able to handle it. And yet, I know that I will, because I always do.

I’m scared that my business will collapse – because how the hell can I continue to work when I’m in the thick of it?

And yet – I have come to acknowledge and honour the fact that I actually do a SHIT TON of work when I’m grieving.

I just do work that is not traditionally given monetary value in society. I actually believe that the work I do while in the thick of grief is some of the most transformative, brilliant, creative, moving and uplifting work I do for myself, for other people, and for the world at large. (And, I do believe the same for the work I do when I’m in the thick of joy.)

Again, I’m thankful for many mentors, friends, community members, spirit guides and ancestors who have taught me to believe that it is possible to build internal and external economies and ecosystems that thrive — individual, interpersonal, and collective – not DESPITE the fullness of everything you are – but BECAUSE of it.

So I ask myself: what is required of me to build a business that honours and revolves around:

the ebbs and flows of grief
the ebbs and flows of sickness
the ebbs and flows of caregiving
the ebbs and flows of birth and death
my unique rhythms, music and energy flow
my desired and inspired patterns, shapes and intricate designs I’m drawing in the sky and in my life

How can innovative values, practices, relationships and structures in my business make room for my need for things like sick leave and grief leave? How can my business support me when I am in an intense period of sickness, grief, or supporting a loved one(s), instead of feeling like I am failing at my business?

What I know is that there is not one answer. It’s not a one-and-done scenario. There is no magical solution. It’s not something to ‘figure out.’ It’s something to ask myself and lean into every day. This is a daily practice of growth and evolution; of returning to oneself, all-ways returning to what matters most.

What I know is to meet myself where I am at. To have radically honest and transparent conversations with myself about who I am and what I need. To make choices that best align with my personal sense of integrity and values. To root into the cosmic and ancestral patterns I most want to heal.

And – like we learn from Frozen II – just take the next right step.


In this spirit, I have chosen to take the rest of March and April 2020 off to prioritize care for my health and my grief, and I’m asking my community to support me in that choice.

I’ve created a donation-based compilation package aka a “non-linear healing package” of some of the transformative free work I’ve shared online over the last few years.

For those of you who have/do benefit from my work, appreciate my work, and are invested in my work, I invite you to support my sick leave and invest in my desire to continue doing my work as my full self. I’ve created this package for you as a thank you, thank you, thank you.


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