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A Work & Life Article

Coping With Job Loss

Losing a job can be one of the most devastating personal experiences in life. Unemployment, divorce, and the death of a loved one are considered to be the most stressful events that an individual ever experiences. Although loss of income is serious, the blow to one’s self-esteem is even more difficult to face.

The losses include:

  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of a daily routine
  • Loss of purposeful activity
  • Loss of income
  • Loss of predictability and sense of security
  • With Loss Comes Opportunity

Like any other dramatic event, job loss presents an opportunity for growth and discovery. Commitment and diligence are required to transform present pain into future positive outcomes. There are several emotional stages you must work through to have the positive frame of mind you need to re-enter the workplace and recognize opportunities as they appear.

Step 1: Vent the Anger and Resentment

The first reactions to loss are pain, fear and lowered self-esteem. Next, denial of these feelings serves to cushion the discomfort temporarily. You cannot however, approach a new opportunity while feeling depressed, angry, bitter, discouraged, fearful or unaware.

Let go. Healthy ways of letting go of anger and resentment include vigorous physical exercise, volunteering in your community, and tackling postponed home tasks. These activities give you a sense of accomplishment while diminishing harmful levels of stress on your body.

Step 2: Acknowledge the Loss and Seek Support

Acknowledge feelings - that is the first step toward coping successfully. Begin to put the experience into perspective and your energy will return. You’ll want to take control of your future. Ask trusted, patient friends and family to listen and talk things through. Find support groups in your community and a professional counselor. Keep a journal - for some, writing your thoughts down helps to put such an experience into perspective.

The goal is to free up positive energy so that you can find a new, satisfying job.

Ask Yourself the Following

  • What actually happened to cause me to lose my job?
  • Did I have any control over that event?
  • How did I receive news of the lay-off?
  • How did I react to the news?
  • How long was I in that particular job?
  • What was my relationship with my boss, my subordinates, my colleagues?
  • Am I feeling a sense of relief along with a sense of loss? Why?

Step 3: Reassess

The initial shock of a job loss may bring about “tunnel vision” - all you see are the negative aspects of your situation. Your former job could not have offered all the things in life which are important to you? Think about other rewarding aspects of life which are meaningful. Reassess your strengths, weaknesses and interests to gain the confidence and direction you need to start down a new path. Choose to make positive changes.

Step 4: Think About Your Family

A parent’s job loss represents a significant change in a child’s world, but it is usually futile to keep such information from them. Children are highly perceptive. Without knowing the source of adult unhappiness, a child may feel responsible for the parent’s sadness or anger.

It is important for all members of the family to talk and help each other while a parent is between jobs. Children can be understanding, supportive and surprisingly resilient when they know they are not to blame.

Step 5: Maintain Financial Stability

Investigate severance pay and other benefits to which you may be entitled with your manager and Human Resources Department. Ask about outplacement services that provide an office and phone that you can use while looking for a job and continuation of health benefits. Look for a temporary job, realizing it is just that…temporary, until you can get back on your feet.

Other pointers:

  • Notify your creditors of your current situation. A flexible payment schedule might be arranged.
  • Apply for unemployment benefits if you lost a job through no fault of your own.
  • Follow a daily schedule. Work on resumes, make calls, do research, set-up interviews for at least six hours a day. Libraries, unemployment offices, religious centers and local government agencies often offer free job-search seminars.
  • Ask for advice from trusted contacts. They can review your resume and cover letter; even coach you on your interview wardrobe and presentation.
  • Be good to yourself. Eat well, exercise, try to have fun and get plenty of sleep.
  • Focus on the possibilities and your accomplishments.