Losing your job hurts—plain and simple. For some, it’s devastating.
Not only can it hurt your financial welfare, it can cause emotional pain and suffering. Depending on your reactions to this crisis, it can severely impact your relationships with family and friends. In fact, for some people a job loss is similar to hearing about the death of a loved one. And there are reasons why you may feel this loss so deeply.
It’s a common practice in much of today’s society to place our identity in our job and in our career. For example, you may have based your self-worth and self-esteem on your job responsibilities, or on your coworkers’ respect for you, or on your job title, or your workplace relationships, and losing any of these can mean losing part or all of your personal identity.
The grief that follows a job loss is a natural and very real. Like most significant losses, the side effects can be painful and often happen unexpectedly. But there is a way through this loss that can create growth and healthy changes.
Let’s look at how this might happen and what steps to take going forward.
Denial of Job Loss
The days and weeks after a job loss can be the most difficult. Being in a state of shock is typical. Many people report not being able to find their way home after hearing that they’ve been terminated. Some try to escape from this shock by denying the painful feelings of loss.
For example, you may try to pretend that life goes on as usual. Despite no longer having an income, you carry on as though nothing happened. Or, when people ask you how you are, you say that you’ve never been better.
But it’s all a facade—a brave but futile attempt to conceal how you’re really feeling.
Avoidance of Social Situations
When someone loses a job, others are naturally concerned for them. For example, people may ask you about your plans for the future or try to assure you that you’ll quickly find a better job. While they have good intentions, it can be overwhelming to you and so you begin avoiding them.
Avoiding social situations often indicates an underlying emotional struggle. While it’s necessary to move past your immediate grief, it’s the least bit easy. It’s much easier to shut down and withdraw instead. But isolation only makes matters worse.
Although it may be uncomfortable at first, one benefit of being among friends is gaining a different perspective. This happens because the care we receive from others during stressful times is what we need to maintain our self-worth and self esteem and to have hope and regain a sense of purpose.
Loss of Identity
You felt you were good at your job. You were your job. Everyone identified that position with you and vice versa. In fact, you identified yourself with it. Now, who are you?
Feeling lost or insecure is common after a job loss. You may be wondering who you are or you may feel like you don’t belong anywhere. Suddenly you might think ” I no longer fit in.”
This self-doubt is frequently a part of job loss. But change and moving forward will only happen when you face the situation head-on. When you stop denying what’s happened and how you feel about it, and when you allow others who care about you to be with you, you may find energy and identify a new sense of purpose.
Anger Toward Everyone
No matter the reason behind your job loss, it’s not unusual if you feel angry, hurt or even betrayed. You may even feel resentment toward your boss or coworkers or the entire company. “After all I did for them…the long hours…the years dedication…and they do this to me?” you might say.
While you contained your feelings as you packed-up and left the office, these feelings can keep showing up once you’ve left. For example, you may experience road rage on the drive home, or argue with your significant other or family or friends or have less patience with your children. Your overall mood may unexpectedly change. You may not be able to get restful sleep because you’re mad.
If this keeps happening, at some point others who care about you will probably confront you. While it may be hard to hear, force yourself to listen to what they’re saying. Because changing this potentially harmful behavior requires that you recognize where the anger and pain are coming from. And sometimes this isn’t very clear to the person who is angry.
Some people try to make significant changes to their ‘professional self’ after a job loss. They may think, for example, “…if only I was more educated…or agreed with everyone else… paid attention to company politics…saw the bigger picture…” While it’s wise to listen to our ‘internal critic’, it’s equally as wise (especially when we lose our job) that we not begin blaming ourselves for something we probably have no control over. Placing unnecessary blame will only hold you back from a successful future.
Remember, you did your very best, based on the available resources and what you knew at the time. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. Saying this out loud, as often as needed, can be motivating and self-reinforcing.
On the other hand, if you didn’t do the best you could have done or you just didn’t care anymore or you knew you weren’t interested in the work, perhaps it’s time for an honest self-appraisal. If something else is going on and you don’t know what happened to your skill or your interest in the work or career, it may be time to advocate for yourself and get help.
A professional therapist can help you navigate through your thoughts and emotions. Together you can identify and plan for your best options, and create change according to your personal needs.
Dealing with grief after a job loss can be overwhelming. You don’t have to do it alone. Let me help. Please contact me at 949-760-7171 or text 949-244-85672 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.