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Yes You Can Experience Grief After Losing Your Job

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

Last week, I got laid off. I knew there was a chance it would happen, but I was also hoping that maybe my job could survive the Covid-19 pandemic. Everything happened so quick, I got a call and suddenly within 15 minutes I was thrown into a whirlwind of emotions. At first, I immediately tried to accept the circumstance, when millions of people around the world were being affected, my situation wasn’t any special, right? But then as I began to think further, many questions entered my head, Why me? Did I do something wrong? What was special about the people who stayed and not me? The more questions I asked the more angry I became. As I transitioned through my anger, I started to feel guilty again especially when I saw how well some of my peers were accepting being laid off. How come I was not like them?

Towards the end of the week I started to notice that many of the emotions I felt from being laid off were similar to the emotions I experienced when I had lost a loved one. Almost a year to the day of being laid off I lost my first born son. It was unexpected and the hurt was excruciating. Although the levels of pain I felt when we lost our son far surpassed my hurt from being laid off, I did wonder if I was experiencing parallel stages of emotion.

The 5 stages of grief theorized by psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, demonstrates the various levels of emotion we experience when we lose a loved one. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Kübler-Ross later amended her list to include seven stages of loss, as seen below.

Losing a loved one is not the same as losing your job, but at the core of it loss is loss. The emotions we feel are similar, however, the extent of time and of how we are affected is what differs.

To show the parallels I’ve created, some comparisons to demonstrate how each stage of grief may look like when you lose your job.

Shock and Denial: Saying to yourself, “Did I really just lose my job? This can’t be happening right now.” I even went as far to check my calendar just to see if my meetings were still there. They were not.

Pain and guilt: I actually experienced this a couple days after I got laid off. It magnified after speaking to my peers who had also been laid off. I had worked so hard and it hurt to think that the work I did and the care I had for my job and company wasn’t enough.

Anger and Bargaining: Because I had worked so hard and made such an effort to be a stellar employee, it angered me to think that it was possibly all for nothing. I immediately thought about seeking further answers from my former employer.

Depression: As I write this, I have not experienced this stage yet, and I may not. If I do, however, I have a good support system that would check in on me and my well being. Preparedness for emotional vulnerability is not an unrealistic idea.

The Upward Turn and Reconstruction: I believe I am currently in between these stages as I am able to think calmly and practically analyze my feelings about being laid off. Each day I try to think about the goals I want to achieve in this time I am in between jobs. I try to do one thing a day that makes me feel good, but I also allow myself to be unproductive if I am just lacking motivation for the day.

Acceptance and Hope: This is my current goal. I still have a lot of unanswered questions, but I am hopeful that I will be able to work through them and find some closure.

I wanted to note that I personally believe these stages are not linear. You may be in the Reconstruction stage and suddenly you start to experience depression. That is normal because transitioning through grief takes time and environmental triggers can take you back to a stage if you are actively healing.

Depending on the impact of the job loss it may take you a week or two or even three to feel acceptance and hope. Please know, however, if you find yourself experiencing extended depression - including negative thoughts and self harm, I would recommend seeking licensed professional help.

We are living in a new and difficult time. So many lives are being uprooted and affected by the sudden changes in the world. You and I, however, are still one person with our own unique experiences. Take the time to allow yourself to process, regress, progress and heal. It is a cliche but nothing lasts forever, sometimes the good and especially the bad. In the words of Rumi “After despair, many hopes flourish just as after darkness, thousands of suns open and start to shine.”

Zeinab Kahera M.Ed. is a native of Atlanta, GA and currently resides in Montreal, Quebec.

© Zeinab Kahera Career Specialist. The information contained in our website, blog, guest blogs, e-mails, videos, programs, services and/or products is for educational and informational purposes only, and is made available to you as self-help tools for your own use.

This post first published on Kahde Career Specialist website on April 13, 2020

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