Job Loss Grief – how to cope and move on…

Ouch… The end of the world is nigh…

Losing a job hurts. Particularly if you feel there was an element of discrimination or unfair dismissal to your exit. Or you just really loved the work you did and the team you did it with.

Losing a career hurts even more. We are continually asked from an early age – “what do you want to be when you’re older?” And when you achieve your dream; through hard work, discipline and sheer bloody-mindedness, you expect to stay with that career for life. Be it law, music or sport or whatever, it’s hard to move on and start a new working life. We’ll look at career loss in more detail in a future blog.

First things first though, Job Loss grief is real and can be devastating.

Coping with the Emotions of Job Loss 

Grief is perhaps one of the most misunderstood aspects of human life. We treat grief as an enemy don’t we? We fight it, or we try to pretend that it doesn’t exist. And the more we do that the worse it becomes.. The truth is though, is that grief is a healing process that is just as vital as the physical healing of cuts, bruises, and broken bones.

So we need to recognise grief, embrace it, and of course understand it a little bit more.

The Job Loss Grief Process

There are 5 key stages to the grieving process..

Stage One: Denial

This isn’t a river in Egypt. No. De-nile is the first stage of the job grieving process.

When a person is first informed that their employment is going to end, their first response is likely to be a stunned “this can’t be happening to me.” This stage may last a day or 2, or it can last for weeks. Sometimes the person becomes convinced that management will change their minds because that has happened before to them or someone else. We draw the curtains on the reality of the situation and hope it all goes away.

Stage Two: Anger

Bastards! After the person comes to the realisation that they’re really going to lose their job, they get angry. Very angry! This anger is usually toward the company or the management, but often it is directed elsewhere. It is not uncommon for people to take their anger out on family or friends. Or ultimately themselves. The “Why Me’s” assaults kick in..

Stage Three: Bargaining

Not everyone appears to go through this stage, but at least some do. We get manipulative. And/or desperate. Try to convince our employer to take us back. Try and reason with them that losing us will have a much bigger outcome on the business. We may offer to reduce our salary. Offer bribes. Or try to convince them that we’re indispensable.

Stage Four: Depression

When none of the above works, and it becomes obvious that termination is inevitable, depression sets in. The depression may be mild and allow the person to go on to the next stage, or it may be severe enough to inhibit normal functioning. Even when one successfully goes on to Stage Five, recurring bouts with depression are not uncommon.

Take a look at my  blog piece here on Mental Health & Work which I hope will help..


Stage Five: Acceptance, or Getting On With Life

One may enter this stage before depression has completely ended. In fact, it is common for people to have to continually work to fight depression if it looks like job prospects are bleak. Those who have the most success in this stage are those who learn to manage their attitudes. They realize that success is usually the result of applying a positive attitude to keep trying, exploring alternatives, and building networks.

Mindset is key.. But it’s not easy…

Suggestions for Managing Your Own Job-Loss Grief

  • Be open about what has happened to you. Don’t be afraid to say, “I lost my job.” You may be surprised at how many people you meet have had similar experiences.
  • Become part of a support group. It can be especially helpful to talk to (and listen to) a group of people who are in your situation. Often just finding out that there are others with your same concerns and fears can be a great help in dealing with those feelings.
  • Process your emotions. Admit your anger, fear, and frustrations to your support group, your family, and your friends. When you allow yourself to do this you are taking the first step toward managing your emotions instead of letting them control you.
  • Renew and deepen relationships. Your marriage and family, as well as your friends, can be a source of strength that is stronger than you realised. Having someone you can lean on and rely on can be crucial in times of trouble. Also, there may be times when you need someone to “give you a shove” when you become discouraged. Above all…
  • Keep your sense of humor. Laughter is as important to your health as physical exercise and a good diet. Just as it is important to exercise on a regular basis, it is important to maintain your sense of humor on a regular basis. Learn to look for humor in everyday situations, especially things that happen to you. Learning to laugh at yourself is one of the best ways to have a healthy self-image.
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