By Catherine Thorburn, Senior Consultant
It might not seem like grief would be one of the emotions we face following job loss, but it’s important to understand grieving or mourning the loss of a job is very real.
Like any other major loss – the end of a relationship or the end of a life, for example – there are certain emotions that are tied to these experiences that need to be recognized with time allocated for adjustment. In fact, these same emotions can be triggered whenever there is a major change in our lives.
Recognizing this grief and understanding it is an important step in allowing ourselves and others to adjust to their new reality rather than trying to push someone through it.
A few months ago, I was coaching someone who had lost their job of seven years. They told me after a few months had passed that they were really surprised how the loss affected them and they needed more time than they had initially thought it would take to recover and begin to move forward with their job search. She felt uncomfortable about it, even a little foolish. I asked her if she would have felt similar had she lost someone close to her due to a death. She responded immediately with “no, of course not.” To her, that would have been an acceptable thing to do – taking time to mourn the death of someone she had lost; mourning the death of a job to her should not feel the same way.
While it is true, you might not feel the same way, you may still go through similar stages of grief. These stages, which were first identified by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Not everyone will experience all five stages, and not everyone will go through them in this order. Some people might get stuck in one stage while others might experience all five stages in the span of a few days, and further some may skip a stage altogether. Grief is very personal. It is not neat and tidy like we would like it to be. Nor is it linear – doesn’t follow any timelines or schedules. You can’t force it to happen or try and seed it up. It’s a process that’s unique to the individual.
Why do you need to know this? Because if you or someone you know loses their job, it’s important to allow time to heal and process the loss before taking action towards finding the next career opportunity.
One of the first mistakes people often make once they lose their job is to immediately begin applying for another one. We advise our clients not to do this all the time. Chances are you aren’t ready, and you might ruin your chances at a good opportunity by not presenting your best self. Often people jump right in due to pressure they are feeling from their friends and loved ones. The “get right back on the horse” mentality is, in fact, not the right advice – at least not right away.
Take the time to grieve the loss of the identity you have known for some time and allow the process to happen. If you find yourself stuck and not able to move forward after a period of time has passed, then it might be a good idea to seek out professional support to help you process the loss.
Just remember, there is an upward point in the Five Stages of Grief, and that is acceptance. Once you’ve reached this stage and are staying there for longer periods of time without experiencing the other four stages, you are probably ready to begin looking at what new opportunities are out there waiting for you. You will much likely be more successful than you would have been had you started the search process earlier.