Every person handles job loss differently, but you're not alone in what you feel. Read on to learn what others report from their experience and what's helped them recover.
Losing a job can trigger a grieving process that may include the stages of shock and denial, anger, resistance, sadness, and finally, acceptance:
Shock and denial: Even if you've known for some time that a job would end, it is still a shock when you get the actual message. It will take some time to absorb the reality of the news.
Anger: You may feel anger toward yourself, your employer, and even your family. Thoughts like “How could they do this to me?” or “Why did I work so hard for them?" are common. These thoughts and the feelings that come with them are normal parts of the grief process.
Resistance: You may find yourself resisting the inevitability of a layoff or furlough (“If I offer to reduce my hours or cut my pay, they will take me back"). In time, you'll fully accept the reality of your situation.
Sadness: It is normal to feel sad and to want to withdraw after a job loss. However, if your job search take longer than expected or you have predisposing factors, you may be vulnerable to clinical depression. Getting professional help is critical—depression can interfere with your energy and effectiveness in finding a job.
Acceptance: Finally, we all work through loss and grief in our own way, come to accept what has happened, and move on. You may cycle back and forth between stages, with good days and bad days that feel like an emotional roller coaster. Be patient with yourself and the process. Eventually things will even out
Managing the Stress of Job Loss
Give yourself time to adjust. Allow yourself some time to absorb what has happened and deal with your initial reactions.
Don’t be ashamed. Many people have been laid off or furloughed—there's little if any stigma attached to losing a job due to economic factors. It's not a personal failure to lose one’s job due to cutbacks.
Tell your family and friends and keep communication open. The people closest to you provide emotional and practical support. They can help you process your feelings and assist in your job search.
Think of the job loss as a temporary setback. Develop a plan to turn things around and take it a step at a time.
Join a job seeker’s support group. No one can understand what you are going through better than your peers. Often you can share thoughts and feelings that you can't share elsewhere. You'll also get good advice and feel less isolated.
Use every community and networking resource available. The university provides career development and other services to staff and faculty, including those who've been laid off or furloughed.
Share your feelings and deal with your fears directly. Talking openly with family and friends can reduce your anxiety.
Avoid negative people and ways of thinking. Seek support from others who've successfully manages challenges.
Do what you can and accept what you cannot change. Remember the serenity prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Despite all your hard work in searching for a job, factors beyond your control can influence when you find work.
Take care of your health. Sleep, exercise, relaxation, and good nutrition are more important than ever. Use any extra time to set up that exercise program you'd always hoped to start. Avoid using drugs and alcohol to deal with stress. Take scheduled breaks from your job search and allow time for fun.
Get professional help, when needed. Talk to a mental health professional if feelings of sadness don't lift her time, if you're feeling paralyzed by anxiety, or if your sleep is consistently disturbed. Unemployment also lead to relationship problems at home—you may need help from a couples or family counselor.
The Employee Assistance Program can help people experiencing personal and work-related stress of layoffs. Schedule a free consultation.