Are you Grieving a Job Loss?

“What feels like the end can often be a time for a new beginning.”

Grief is a complicated emotion.

It’s important to grieve when you transition through a job loss stage in your career – it helps you understand more about yourself, and deal with the feelings of loss

For some people, a job is just a job but for most of us, it defines out identity and provides us with a way of making a living. Therefore, if someone has experienced a sudden job loss especially in the current pandemic, this can become a traumatic experience with no idea on how to move on.

The covid-19 has led to massive economic disruption with financial repercussions including industries that have been shut down completely and unimaginable lay-offs.

On the flipside, we have to remember that this is an opportunity to come out stronger on the other side, but we have to go through the whole stages. Some take weeks, others take months.

According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, there are 5 stages of grief and they are:

1. Denial

2. Anger

3. Bargaining

4. Depression

5. Acceptance

1. Denial

If you lost your job because of the pandemic then you must have gone through this or are still in the denial stage. This is where there is an initial sense of anxiety and there could be an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. It is very normal to feel this way.

Denial is a way our mind prevents us from going into shock – it is when we want to believe everything will just be fine. This stage quickly turns to anger when you get to the boiling point realizing there is nothing you can do about your situation and start looking for someone, something to blame.

2. Anger

This is characterized by blaming, pointing fingers and complaining. During this phase, it is imperative to minimize contact especially with social media. Keep in mind people remember the negative more than the positive.

People work hard. They sacrifice and give much of themselves in their jobs, so when that job is lost it can feel as though your contributions haven’t been valued. Many people feel angry about losing their job and the circumstances of that job loss can further exacerbate the feeling of anger

Once the anger passes, fear kicks in which brings up to the bargaining stage.

3. Bargaining

The third stage involves the hope that you can avoid a cause of grief. This is where someone is willing to do anything, it is more of short cuts. They want to get out of pain.

Usually, the negotiation for an extended life is made in exchange for a reformed lifestyle. For instance: “I’d give anything to be back—work hard, take up the shift that I always avoided or even work under the manager that I hated.” Or: “If only he’d give back my job, I’d promise to stay focused and perform better.”

The bargaining stage makes us rush into things without having a strategy in place or thinking through our actions, in other words, it is a kne-jerk reaction.

And this kind of reaction will lead to depression when the quick reaction does not get the desired results.

4. Depression

This stage is characterized by an overwhelming sense of sadness and could be because an action was taken and no desired end results or plain inaction where heads are buried under the sand. It does affect self-esteem as most people will look at themselves as failures and they would tend to think there is no point in spending time in anything.

Usual thoughts at this time are: “There is no meaning in working hard for organizations like this. There is nothing to look forward to. It’ll be really tough to find anything; I feel like giving up. What’s the point in putting up a fight and, after all, what am I fighting for?” At this stage, you might realize the ultimate realities of life—an absolute lack of control over such events, helplessness, and uncertainty. In this state, people close to you find you being silent, refusing to meet people or not taking interest or pleasure in your usual activities.

5. Acceptance

If you have reached his stage, congratulations. You now know and understand that some things are beyond your control and it is okay. You are at peace with any mistakes you may have made in your past job that could have led to the job loss. You know you can’t change the past and hence are perfectly okay leaving it where it belongs. You own that it has happened and gone. You stop beating yourself up.

It is where you are clear that you are ready to get into the space of working to grab new opportunities.

The grief process takes time. You do not want to rush through any of these stages, as each is important to help you heal after a loss. Once you recognize the signs of the stage you are in, you will be more apt to acknowledge your feelings, accept your situation and move toward a more positive future!

Our next blog will feature some things you can do to cope with Job Loss.

In the meantime, here are some tips you can try during the career grief:  

1. Go on a negativity diet. (Avoid toxic people, negative information, negative social media content, online content etc.) If possible switch off updates on Covid-19 and stick to only trusted sources. E.g., Find online support groups that have a no covid-19 policy forwards, but their purpose is to support each other during this period.

2. Try Pomodoro technique – Use this technique to do things that you need to do e.g., LinkedIn profile set up, resume revamp, interview preparation, job search research etc. In essence it is intentionally doing the things you have wanted to do or thought of doing but not sure where to start from.  

3. Try making a streak – as a verb, means ‘move very fast in a specified direction’. Basically you want to get to the next stage of your life as soon as possible and this means taking daily steps towards the same; be it networking online, connecting with recruiters, researching how to re-skill and up-skill yourself, checking out the industries that are hiring. When committed to doing something about your career growth and new job search every day, you will realize you have made long strides in 30 days where you are more confident and better informed.

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