Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Coping With Job Loss



Coping With Job Loss:  Overcoming Crisis and Moving toward Success

Presenter:  Diane Kern, Ph.D.

Creator of Happy & Healthy U Seminars


The loss of a job is one of the most difficult life events and source of significant stress.  Experiencing emotional distress in response to losing one’s job is very common and to be expected.  The typical experience is grief, which is constituted by several emotional stages.  The model of such grief is characterized by the following stages:

1.       Shock, Disbelief, and Denial:  This is often the initial reaction to losing a job; that the job loss does not feel real. 
2.        Anger/ Resentment/ Bitterness:  Feeling angered about the manner in which one’s job was terminated is very common.  It is important to recognize the underlying feelings that prompt the anger.  Such anger is particularly intense when one feels that they were unfairly terminated; mistreated while they were employed; or unappreciated and undervalued.
3.       Bargaining:  This is the sense that maybe one can suddenly change and undo the job loss.  However, this is a temporary  way that the mind eases the pain and grasps for a way to regain control
4.       Sadness / Depression:  These are feelings of despair and hopelessness.   There may also be some self-blame.
Diminished self-esteem is often experienced, due to the stigma of job loss, as well as the actual financial strain that may result.  This may leave the former employee feeling inadequate to meet their financial obligations and plagued by a sense of shame.
5.       Acceptance:  This is the acknowledgement of the painful and disruptive event; while realizing and desiring to go on.  Instead of engaging in psychological defenses and ways to avoid and minimize the pain; this stage embraces the reality of this difficult occurrence and the desire to get unstuck and move on. It is at this point that one is truly ready to search for a new job or explore  other healthy,  career  related options.

The key to successfully coping with and surviving a job loss is to work through your feelings; not to avoid them or get stuck in them.  The goal is to eventually move on.  Moving on for many may mean finding another job.  For others, it may mean early retirement or establishing a new career.  Below is a model for moving on with one’s life. 

To achieve wholeness and well-being, take good care of yourself in across all dimensions

Spiritually:  It is important that you assign meaning to this experience and make sense out of it.  This is also
an opportunity to confirm or redefine one’s sense of purpose.  Exercise your faith.  Meditation and prayer
can bring a sense of calm, centering, and hope.  Such quieting practices are also helpful in terms of being able to access and hear one’s inner voice.  This is also where we exercise our integrity and allow our healthy, positive standards to guide our actions. 

Physically: Experiencing major stress, such as a job loss can impact one’s health by weakening the immune system, thereby, rendering us more vulnerable for illness.  Therefore, it is essential that we refrain from self-medicating or excessive use of drugs or alcohol. Instead this is the time to concentrate on maintaining one’s health and strength through proper nutrition, exercise and rest.  Also, this is where all of one’s physical and survival needs are important.  This means addressing one’s financial needs by having a plan; utilizing savings; and tapping into other resources, such as unemployment benefits, or other services.

Emotionally:  Here is where our attitude about ourselves and this experience is crucial in determining our ability to recover from this crisis.  It is important that one validates the distressing feelings experienced and to remember that it is natural and part of the grieving such a loss.  It is also essential to recognize that the experience of losing a job, even when fired with cause, does not define a person.  Therefore, do not internalize the experience and beat yourself up.  This is only likely to lead to a depressive state that can keep you stuck. Also do not act out in either self-destructive, violent or other inappropriate ways.  Acting out usually creates yet a whole new set of problems, ranging from legal or criminal charges to negative repercussions to one’s reputation.  Such reactions will only result in negative consequences for you with potentially lasting damage to one’s career life. Exercise self-discipline around your legitimate anger in a way that allows you to retain your sense of self,  integrity and power.    Instead of getting stuck in self-blame, it is healthy to fairly evaluate one’s role in the  job performance and in one’s firing.  This places us in the healthy posture to address our issues or skill deficits.

In cases of wrongful termination, it is sometimes helpful to stand up for and exercise one’s rights.  Such actions may take the form of filing a formal grievance or pursuing  legal action. Another option could simply consist of a written dispute of the firing that would be placed on record. This can be a healthy way to discharge one’s anger and possibly accomplish re-instatement or restitution.  Being clear about the purpose of contesting a firing is essential.  If we do not have a desired goal in mind, it could become very easy to get mired in a protracted fight. Therefore, it is important to recognize one’s stamina for waging such major battles and balancing such actions with continuing to function well in other aspects of everyday life.  Also, it is important that one balances such actions against the need to move on to regaining our career life.  Therefore, it behooves us to decide the relative value of  the various options to fight a job loss against their possible toll or negative impact on our lives. 


Mentally or Intellectually:  Identifying and reminding one’s self about one’s talents, skills, and abilities is very important at this time.  Also, recognize the valuable contributions you made and accomplishments you achieved in your work. Engaging in such reflective exercises can serve as the basis of preparing for a new job or career.  In addition, it is helpful to feel good about oneself and to realize that one’s value and skills are not contingent upon or defined by one’s job.  In other words, we own our value and skill set. This may also assist a person in recognizing new opportunities and developing new interests and skills.  The goal is to regain a sense of empowerment and to become proactive in terms of utilizing our strengths toward reshaping our career lives.

Socially / Interpersonally:  Reaching out to one’s social network for support can be very helpful.  First of all, it is important to know that there are those who care about us and to be reminded that we are not defined by; nor is our worth dependent on our jobs or by the incomes we earn. Those, who truly care about and value us will not denigrate us due to a job loss.   In addition, reaching out to others, who have lost jobs and participating in some level of shared support, helps us realize that we are not alone and that our experience is common.  Therefore, losing a job does not result in one becoming a “loser”. 

Networking with others is a very useful way of connecting socially with others to exchange information and resources for possible job leads.  First of all, letting other trusted individuals in your social circle know that you are now job hunting and what it is you are seeking is a first line of networking.  Other forms of career networking consist of attending job search groups, joining professional organizations related to your interests or particular profession, and obtaining a mentor . 

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