Grieving the Loss of a Job

The recent COVID-19 crisis has affected every aspect of our daily lives. Many have been asked to work from home. But even more alarming is the number of layoffs and businesses that have been forced to shut down. With any kind of loss, grief is a normal response. However, in my years of career development, one topic I didn’t see addressed enough was grief over job loss.

To be honest, I didn’t know grief over job loss was a thing until 3 years ago when I quit my job. A career path I had worked hard for. And the key point here is that I had chosen to leave this job.

My resignation had been a couple of years in the making. The company and my manager were great and they worked hard with me to make it work. But the longer I did that work, the further from myself I felt. So I made the tough decision to resign.

I had a few weeks off between that job and the new position I had accepted, which was in the same industry but a different, related position. During that time, I was surprised at the emotions that followed. After all, I had resigned. No one had forced me to leave.

At first, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I missed my former coworkers and the comfort that job had brought. I regretted my decision. And I wondered whether anyone noticed my absence.

6 months after starting my new job, I was laid off. Surprisingly, this was when the grief really hit.

Even though I had wanted to leave that industry for years, I hadn’t realized how tied up my identity was in my career.

I felt lost, depressed, grief, frustration for a while as I figured out my next steps.

I had wanted to pursue entrepreneurship for years so I took some writing assignments but I struggled to navigate my emotions.

Job Loss Grief is More Common Than Most Know

In my usual style, I started to research job loss grief. Then I started to talk to others about it and found that regardless of whether the career transition was self-initiated or not, grief was a common response.

And now with COVID-19, we are facing even more complications. We are navigating physical distancing which is something most of us have not faced before.

Many parents are facilitating learning at home to make up for the lost time at school. We are dealing with our own emotions and that of our loved ones. Some of us have become sick.

Things already feel uncertain. And job loss at a time like this can be devastating.

When You Have Lost Your Job

If you have recently been laid off, here are some ways to deal with the emotions and grief and move forward:

  • Feel your emotions: A lot of us tend to suppress or reject our emotions. If you are feeling anger, sadness, or confusion, it is okay. Find healthy ways to feel these emotions. For me personally, I turn to journaling, meditation, exercising, and talking to others to move my emotions. Find what works for you.
  • Take care of yourself: Ensure your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being needs are being met. Eat well, sleep, drink water, exercise. Take deep breaths, many times per day. Especially with this crisis, now is the time to turn pain into power.
  • Give yourself some grace: Go easy on yourself.
  • Reconnect with yourself: Many people identify as their job title and losing their job creates a loss of identity. I always advocate for knowing who you are, your strengths, skills, and interests and checking in on those regularly. But this exercise is even more essential in times of career transitions because you can more easily market yourself when you know who you are and what you want.
  • Reflect: Take some time to self-reflect. Were you on your desired career path? If your answer is yes, keep going! But if your answer is no, this could be the opportunity to figure out where you want your career to go.
  • Make a plan: When it’s time to start your job search, create a plan. What will be your job search strategy? What positions, companies, company culture do you seek?
  • Prepare: What action do you need to take to prepare for your job search? Update your LinkedIn profile, resume, and practice interviewing.
  • Network: Networking is the best way to land a job. If you haven’t already, start to build relationships. Connect with your network. Make new connections. LinkedIn makes this easy to do.
  • Stay motivated: Watch motivational videos, such as TedTalks or GoalCast. Listen to audiobooks and podcasts that help you to stay optimistic.
  • Reach out for support: At any of these stages, ask for support. Whether you enlist the help of a professional, such as a counselor, or a career coach, or just talk to your friend, ask for the help you need to get through this.

If You are Feeling Desperate

Many are in a state of panic. You may rely on every paycheck to take care of your needs, your home, food, utilities. I totally get it.

But I can also say, from my own experience, that panicking and stressing out are not going to bring about solutions. Breathe. Stay present. Practice gratitude – for your health, your family’s health, having time with your loved ones.

Get creative.

Technology has made it easy for us to innovate new ways to make money.

Many online course companies are offering free or heavy discounts to help you develop yourself professionally. Take advantage of these offers.

Network, network, and network some more.

This too shall pass. I promise.

In the meantime, stay well. If there is anything I can help with, comment below or reach out to me. I will do what I can to help.

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