We don’t talk enough about ambiguous grief. It’s one thing to relate to someone who’s lost a loved one (though, in my opinion our culture could use some serious education in that area as well), but it’s a whole other beast to understand someone grieving the loss of a marriage, a baby they never had, or a business they’ve created.
That’s where I find myself as I sit down to write this goodbye letter to Head/Heart Therapy. This transition has been in the works for quite some time, but it has become increasingly real as we approach the end of 2022. When I interviewed Rayell Grayson at the end of 2019, I told her I was ready to move on, and hoped to find someone who was interested in taking Head/Heart Therapy forward. I am beyond grateful I met her and hired her. Not only has she helped to fortify and grow the practice, she’s also become a trusted colleague and dear friend.
When I tell people I’m selling the business, they often say, “Oh, it’s your baby! How can you let it go?”, or, “What are you going to do next?”. In truth, the business hasn’t felt like my baby for quite some time now, and I think that’s a good thing. When I started this practice in 2014, I envisioned something very different from where it ended up. With the addition of Rayell and our stellar management team, the practice has blossomed into a beautiful collective that’s not only a reflection of me, but a reflection of everyone who brings their (head), heart, and soul to this organization. I always wanted to create a space where others felt like they could not only see themselves reflected, but also where they could co-create their own dreams. And, to a large extent, we accomplished this goal.
To relate the business to a baby is ironic since I am child-free by choice. One reason I made the choice not to have children is because I was afraid of the lessons I would be forced to learn as a mother. All the lessons I thought I could escape by not having children have been delivered as a business owner. (Thanks, Universe). I strived to create the truly supportive, healthy environment that I longed for in childhood. In some ways I succeeded, and in some ways I catastrophically failed. In some cases, the good-enough boss I intended to be was nowhere near what employees wanted, which has been a painful lesson. My role has taught me a lot about power and how to be responsible with it. Experiencing both sides of the power differential, I’ve recognized that when you’re the one who holds the power, the mistakes you make can cause a great deal of harm. I don’t have many regrets in my life, but I do regret the harm I caused when I did not realize the power I had. I regret spreading myself so thin that I could not be the boss the staff needed me to be. While I can’t undo mistakes I made, I can use the wisdom I gained to support other practice owners in learning and appreciating their responsibility and power.
Speaking of what’s next, I kind of hate that question. Looking forward doesn’t make space for the grief I’m experiencing with this transition. My therapist and I talked about this grief being similar to what I experienced with the loss of my parents: a cacophony of emotions, including relief, sadness, aimlessness, and hope for the future. I’ve always struggled with allowing space for being, let alone being with difficult emotions. I’m compelled to connect and create, so this new venture is the same. Though I intend to move at a slower pace in my new venture. I imagine the grief of this transition won’t end even when I fervently start something new. I’ve been the owner of Head/Heart Therapy for the better part of a decade and though it will change hands in a matter of moments, I won’t magically be free of its energetic imprint for a long while.
I don’t make firm plans for my future. I’ve never been great at planning, but I’m excellent at dreaming. I set intentions as I crystalize what feels most in alignment with where I am now, while simultaneously imagining where I might like to go. At the moment, I’m passionate about helping therapists, therapy practice owners, and healthcare managers create alignment within their professional and personal lives. I remember my experiences working in unhealthy organizations — how painful it was, and how much I wanted to make changes. I did my best to manifest a better space within my own organization, but often fell short. One important component I realized was that it almost always takes an outside helper to support organizational transformation. Due to power differentials, it will always be a challenge to initiate change solely from within an organization. Through all the wisdom I’ve gained in the past nine years, that’s exactly what I want to do for others via Head/Heart Business Therapy. (Thanks, Rayell for allowing me to carry the H/H brand cred forward!). I’ve already started offering one-on-one consultation for practice owners, I’ll soon be offering groups and intensives, and who knows what else in the future!
I started Head/Heart Therapy in 2014 when both of my parents were alive. By the end of 2014, they were both gone. Nine years later, I’m saying goodbye to something that was born in the midst of grief, and I’ve found my way back to grief from a different perspective. I’m in awe of where this journey has taken me — professionally, of course, but also personally. I cannot be in relationship (with a person or entity) and not be transformed. This business has helped me learn to be in relationship with my own power. It humbled me when I thought I knew it all. It nearly broke me under the weight of my own mistakes. But most importantly, it inspired me when I saw clients being cared for, when staff stepped in to put their unique mark on the work we do, and when the management team rose to the occasion and took over the operations of the business.
Grief is challenging. It’s not an emotion (or collection of emotions) anyone wants to feel. But the beautiful part of grief is that it honors the death of something that was incredibly important to us. This is not the death of Head/Heart Therapy, but it is the death of the incarnation of Head/Heart Therapy with myself at the helm. Death makes way for something else to be reborn. Head/Heart Therapy will be reborn as Rayell steps into ownership and feels her way towards the fullest expression of herself as a business owner. And Head/Heart Business Therapy is being born as the next step in my career. So while I grieve, I also hold a great deal of hope for the future: for the practice, for Rayell, for the management team, for the therapists…and for me and whatever it is that I will create next.
To wrap up, I want to say a couple specific thank yous to people with whom none of this would have been possible.
To my husband, Rich: thank you for trusting it would be o.k. when I decided to take the leap to start my own business. Thank you for putting up with all the times I was unavailable because I was so engrossed in over-working. And thank you for holding me when things were too hard, and believing everything would be o.k.
To my therapists Susan and Kelli: Thank you for holding me while I learned some really painful lessons. Thank you for always seeing the best in me and reflecting that goodness back to me.
To Helen: You taught me some of the greatest lessons of being a business owner that I’ve been passing on to others. Thank you for being fiercely loving when I was struggling and being brutally honest when I was headed down the wrong path. You created boundaries I didn’t know I needed and that helped shape me into the boss I wanted to be.
To the Head/Heart Therapy staff, past and present: Thank you for bringing your gifts to the practice. Without you, none of this would have existed.
To Anna, Benji, and Joanna: You are three of the four legs that help this business stand steady and strong. Joanna, the heart — you see and feel everything so clearly. I trust you will continue to use that power wisely and with love. Benji, the feet and hands — you have allowed yourself to transform with this call to leadership. Your vision for what this practice can be is inspiring. Continue to deepen trust in yourself to be the benevolent leader you never had. And Anna, the gut — your honesty and curiosity brings much needed self-reflection to the management team. You are a natural leader. Believe that deeply.
To Rayell: I won’t embarrass you by saying all the things I want to say. You know you are one of the most special people to come into my life. I love you and I have full faith that you will make this practice shine in a way I never could have imagined. You are not alone on this journey. Never forget to ask for help.
And thank you to those who are reading this. You’ve been a crucial witness to this journey. I thank you for all the contributions you’ve made to this organization, whether overt or energetic. Your care was felt.