Founding a Startup Amidst Loss and Grief

Around this time last year, I wrote a post called On Working While Grieving. It feels like an eternity ago, because so much has changed; yet here I find myself again, writing a post about loss and commitment.

The last time I wrote was in April, and I haven’t had the gusto to write again till now. Even now, this is difficult, but it’s time I get it out so I can get back to sharing the good parts again.

At the end of April my mother passed away after a four-year battle with cancer, making that the second time in a year and a half that I lost one of my closest and dearest family members. This kind of grief is unbearable, it sits in the middle of my brain like a boulder and some days, especially in the beginning of the summer, it doesn’t let me do very much at all. I often feel like my creative energy is chained to a tree like a dog — it wants to run, but no matter how hard it tries it just keeps running in place. As time passes these days are fewer and farther between, and more and more I feel gratitude to feel peace and calm colouring my days.

Some people process loss by taking time off, giving themselves space to heal. This, of course, poses a big challenge when you’re one third of the founding team of an early-stage startup. I’ve always had a tendency to work through pain, and this time was no different — except maybe that, this time, both the work and the pain were more vibrant and intense than anything I’d ever experienced before. I’m not going to tell you that my way was right, in fact, I think I probably should have taken time off for my own personal health. But in my darkest times, working on my company gave me a purpose.

My co-founders and I on the rooftop of an office way fancier than our own

My co-founders  and I started researching for Crescendo in December of last year. In my last post on this blog, I announced what we were working on — we’ve since pivoted to a much more positivity-focused tool (I’ll write more about it in posts to come, but for now you can see what we’re up to on our website, And in the last two months we’ve turned our plans into a product! Crescendo now has two full-time technical employees and is piloting in Toronto and Waterloo.

As a new founder, I get a lot of (much appreciated, much needed) advice from other founders. Tales of caution, words of inspiration, and some hilarious stories of failure that only entrepreneurs — and schadenfreude enthusiasts — can be so gleeful about. One of the themes that has come up a lot this summer has been the importance of mental health. Startup life is incredibly stressful — as a founder you work long hours and do every job — and a lot of entrepreneurs suffer from depression, anxiety, and isolation. Combining the emotional rollercoaster of entrepreneurship with the nosedive of personal loss has been very difficult to get through.

I have a very small family (all that’s left is me and my dad), so a lot of the pressure has rested on weary shoulders. The support I’ve received from our entrepreneurship community has been overwhelmingly meaningful to me and has caused me to shed happy tears on more than one occasion. This summer, Crescendo was part of the Next36 founder development program by NEXT Canada, a non-profit organization that helps early Canadian entrepreneurs launch their ventures. Next36 offered us many things including world-class education, office space, and investment, but by far the most impactful to me has been the network. I never expected that the competitive world of business could be so welcoming and supportive.

One year ago, when I wrote On Working While Grieving, I was still working at Microsoft and hadn’t even met my co-founders yet. It’s amazing how much can change in such a short time, and how much some people can come to mean to you almost overnight. Through all of this, my co-founders have been my rocks. Though in the grand scheme of life we met a short while ago, they’ve supported me through the worst time of my life, and I really don’t know how I would have survived this without them. Now that our residence at NEXT has come to an end, we are starting a new chapter in Crescendo’s journey, one that I hope to share with you here and on social media.

Writing this has released a weight from my being. To those of you who have been through or are going through something similar, know you are not alone. A few readers reached out to me personally after reading my previous post about grief — I share this now because I want you to know my email and direct messages are always open, and I’ll do my best to answer you if you send me a note. The world is a better place for everyone when we lift each other up.

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“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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