5 Stages of Grief for Entrepreneurs

Nearly every successful entrepreneur has experienced failure at some point. The important thing is


Patrick Kamau

3 years ago | 4 min read

Your business is likely something very personal to you. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your company, hoping others will see it in the same light that you do. You want your brand to have a positive impact on the world, and you spend what feels like every waking hour trying to make that happen.

So it can be kind of a downer when your business doesn’t meet with the level of success you hoped for. Of course, this means you need to make a change, but that can be tough to admit. Nearly every successful entrepreneur has experienced failure at some point. The important thing is to not take everything so seriously and bounce back stronger than ever.

Here are the 5 stages of grief for entrepreneurs:

Stage 1: Denial

“No, I’m fine. The business is fine. Every company gets off to a slow start. There’s nothing wrong at all.”

“Success is right around the corner. I can feel it. Just gotta keep pushing forward.”

“I don’t know what numbers you’re seeing. From my point of view, the business is doing great!”

Do any of these sound familiar to you? 

It’s tough to admit that things aren’t going according to plan, so we pretend everything is just peachy. It’s sort of like finding ways to avoid looking at the main problem.

Denial happens to us all. It’s a natural reaction, like a defense mechanism to cope with bad news. It’s a way of putting off a problem for another time. Think of it like applying a band aid over a serious wound.

Denial doesn’t really get to the heart of the problem, though. It acts more like a distraction. To avoid it, tackle the issue head on. By acknowledging the problem, you can get to work immediately looking for helpful solutions.

Stage 2: Anger

“How dare customers reject my business? What’s wrong with them? This is their entire fault!”

Who hasn’t gotten angry at rejection? If you’ve experienced a setback with your business, you may have felt a bit upset at the time. 

At about this time, we might engage in a bit of finger pointing, even if it isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault. Customers aren’t buying? Then they must be the problem!

As you can see, that’s not a very helpful approach to the issue at hand. Anger can be a powerful emotion, and it can spread quickly. Worst of all, it doesn’t help you course correct.

Your business needs you now, so channel your energy and work to discover solutions. As you focus on answers, you’ll find that your attitude will change for the positive. It always feels good to be working toward a solution rather than focusing on a problem.

Stage 3: Bargaining

Bargaining happens when we start to blame ourselves for a struggling business. You keep thinking about what you’ve done that might have led to your company faltering out of the gate. Many of these thoughts tend to follow the “If only…” structure.

If only… you had spent more money. If only… you had read up on your industry more. If only… then things would be different.

It’s easy to start overanalyzing every little move you’ve made up until this point, especially if you feel responsible. 

But that’s good, right? You’re looking for what went wrong and seeking a solution? Well, not quite. Bargaining still tends to avoid the problem. You keep thinking of what might have been instead of pushing forward. Your mind gets stuck in the past as if by the power of will alone you can change what happened.

If you want to recover, you must push aside any anxiety you may be feeling. Take each step carefully and try not to beat yourself up over every little mistake.

Stage 4: Depression

“This sucks. I’m not having any fun and now I’m broke. Why did I ever think this would be a good idea?”

Now comes the toughest stage: depression. It’s easy to feel like the situation with your company is hopeless during this time. It’s also when we tend to withdraw and reflect on our own shortcomings as an entrepreneur.

Look, there’s no denying that a business failure can feel like a blow to your self-esteem. You might have feelings of regret. But an unsuccessful business venture shouldn’t be held up as a reflection of your skill. Think of it as a learning opportunity.

So how do you get out of this tailspin? Two words: positive thinking. Tell yourself that there are things still within your power that will help you make things right again. Don’t shut yourself off from others. Be willing to ask for help. Success and relief may not be as far off as you think.

Stage 5: Acceptance

At last, you’ve gotten to acceptance! You’ve arrived at a healthy place, one where you can learn and grow based off of your past experience. This is where you decide to move on and make a real difference. 

This stage can feel very empowering, especially after going through the previous stages. It will require a time of readjustment and adaptation, but you’ll feel stronger and ready for new challenges. You know what you have to do to help your business be successful, and you now have the desire to do it. And there you have the 5 Stages of Grief for Entrepreneurs. It’s not always easy to go through, but it can be a valuable learning experience that will help you succeed in the future.


Created by

Patrick Kamau

I am a social entrepreneur. I help job seekers to be visible on LinkedIn and land their dream jobs within 90 days.







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