18th February 2020
by Marie Holden
Pistachio Design was created in 2005 when my youngest son was born. I’d decided that I wanted more flexibility from my work-life-balance and it seemed like the opportune time to take that leap.
I’m happy to say that 15 years later, the company is still going strong and I now have a (very tall) 15 year old. But, as anyone who runs their own business will know, with great power comes great responsibility, and there have been many ups and downs along the way. Running a business can be difficult and you have to be able to manage the rough with the smooth, be numerous things to all people, still do your job well, and be there for your family. This pressure can be immense, but luckily for me, I have always had amazing support from my business partner (Paul Johnson) and most importantly, from my husband Dave.
However, life, as they say, is sent to try us, and in 2010 we received some news that would change my life forever. Dave was diagnosed with a Grade III Astrocytoma (terminal brain tumour). This was, as you can imagine, a massive shock.
I remember that day very clearly, as I left the office I said to Paul “I’ll be back soon, unless Dave is dying…” little did I know what was coming. One moment our lives were secure, steady and safe, Dave was fit and well and happy, and the next moment the rug had been completely pulled from under us. This was obviously an incredibly a tough time for my family and I, but I did still have a business to run.
Over the next 8 years, there were a lot of hospital appointments, and because Dave wasn’t allowed to drive with his condition, there was a lot of juggling going on which impacted work hours and meant that I spent many an evening struggling to catch up. But life continued, as it must, and we worked together as a team to ensure that it was all business as usual. Keeping a routine was essential and it gave me normalcy and a place to centre myself throughout the turbulence of Dave’s illness, it was also important for us as a family that we all stayed positive and continued to live our lives in a productive and positive way.
Then, in August 2018, we received the diagnosis that we were all dreading. There was nothing more that could be done. We’d fought as hard as we could for as long as we could, but Dave’s condition was starting to deteriorate and there was no escaping the heart-breaking fact that our day to day life would have to reflect this. I took 4 months off to care for him at home, after which I then supported his care at Thames Hospice in Windsor during his final weeks.
Previously, maintaining my work had been essential in how we were both able to mentally cope with Dave’s original diagnosis, but being able to fully step away during this time was the single most important thing that I had to do in that moment. I was able to purely focus on Dave and my family, and for once put the business to the very back of my mind.
Once Dave passed, I came back to work fairly quickly as I needed to keep my mind busy and I wanted to throw myself back into a familiar and busy environment. I was also very aware that I had placed a lot of pressure on Paul to do not only his job, but mine as well, and although we would have made it work if I’d needed more time away, focussing my energy back into the business was exactly what I needed to do to help process my grief.
When you are a small business, you don’t always have the resources available to replace someone for a prolonged amount of time, so it was important to me that I felt like I was being of use and not relying upon others to pick up the slack I had left in my absence.
Once back at work I quickly became immersed back into everyday life. My youngest children went back to school and life seemed to carry on, at least on the outside. Grief is always there, and it seems to hit you when you least expect it, but I was glad to be back in a routine and to feel like my days had a purpose, so that even when the grief did hit me, I could turn my attention to work and try and get through it.
As one of my friends put it, grief is a series of “firsts” that you have to get through. I found that initially I was so busy with paperwork (there is a preverbal mountain of it) and just getting my head round daily life, that before I knew it, 6 months had passed and I was already facing new challenges every day.
Then it suddenly hit me. I was now a single parent, I had a multitude of things to do in the house, I wasn’t really looking after myself and I still had a business to run. I’d pilled so much pressure on myself in such a short space of time to be perfect, that I had to take a step back and realise I’m not superwoman, and that it is ok not to be superwoman.
I had a list (that I still haven’t completed) that was starting to really stress me out. There were things to fix – which my husband had always organised or fixed himself – that I had no clue or time to do. And whilst we had had time to prepare, there was still so much that I’d forgotten to ask him and I was starting to wonder how I’d ever be able to achieve it all without him.
Another knock-on effect is that I used to talk to Dave about everything. If I was stressed with work I could go home and he would have a sympathetic ear, a glass of wine in hand and dinner on the table to make it all better. I didn’t realise how much I had relied on this, and due to a challenging year in business with Brexit making for an unsure marketplace, there has been much more to juggle than normal, which has made his absence all the more painfully apparent.
However, with all of this going on, I have been so lucky to have such amazing support around me and the time that I took off to be with Dave would have been impossible without the support that I received from Paul and all the staff at Pistachio. I am still learning every day how best to deal with the waves of grief as they come, but I coming to realise that it is all a work in progress and not to be too hard on myself when it comes to the management of both home and business.
So, in 2020 I am grabbing life by both horns. I’m determined to get running again and I’m also going to an event with WAY (Widowed and Young) and before you say it, yes, I am considered young! And I am looking forward to another year of challenges, excitement and achievement at Pistachio with our wonderful team.
Whilst life is still throwing me curve balls, I’m determined to move Pistachio forward this year and keep a positive attitude towards life, work and everything else in between. I’m not saying that I will always be on top form, but I’m learning to be kinder to myself and trying to always take small steps forward, and I wish the same for all of you.
Thanks for reading!