When I lost my job, I thought it was the end. I couldn’t help but think of my family members, and how I’ve let them down
Shock. Confusion. Devastation. Anger. Stress. You are not alone – this cycle of grief and loss is known to many who have lost their jobs. While it is tempting to isolate yourself and sink into grief, identifying which stage of emotions you are at and taking the appropriate actions is important to help you get back on your feet.
Shock and Denial
“How could this be true?”
“Is it a mistake?”
“How do I tell my spouse and kids?”
These thoughts may first appear when you have been asked to leave.
Word of Advice: It can be difficult to accept that you don’t have a job anymore, especially if you were in that company for many years. However, it is good to give yourself some space to process the shock. Once you are ready, you can talk through your feelings and process the situation with your spouse or a trusted friend.
Fear and Panic
“Is this the end of my career?”
“Will I lose everything I’ve owned?”
Once you have accepted your job loss, fear and stress can seep in as you think about coping with the pressing needs at hand.
Word of Advice: Try listing your worries on paper to process them systematically. Talk through your worries with a trusted friend or coach. Some of your fears may need immediate attention, and you can work with your confidants on the next steps. You may also realise that some of these fears are irrational, and you can strike them off the list.
“How could they do this to me?”
“They have no right!”
“I have been working in this company longer than any of them!”
You may feel that your employer has not been fair to you. However, anger may be unproductive and damaging to your job search. You may unknowingly reveal your frustration to a potential employer and jeopardise your chances.
Word of Advice: Emotions are natural and part of the human experience. You want to be aware of these feelings and find a healthy outlet to express them. Find activities to express that frustration, such as exercising or journaling your feelings. More importantly, avoid taking the company’s decision as a personal rejection for it may be due to economic reasons beyond your control.
“If only I tried harder.”
“What if I had done things differently?”
In the bargaining phase, you may find yourself intensely focused on what you could have done differently. The ‘what ifs’ and ‘if onlys’ may lead you to blame yourself and affect your ability to move on.
Word of Advice: Bargaining is a natural instinct because it provides a temporary escape from your pain and gives you time to adjust to the reality of the situation. It may be helpful to talk to family and friends, or speak to a counsellor for some third-party perspectives.
“Nothing I do can change the situation.”
“What’s the point of trying.”
This is when reality starts to sink in. Feelings of worthlessness and helplessness may creep into your thoughts. You may even experience intense sadness, decreased sleep, reduced appetite, and loss of motivation.
Word of Advice: Know that unemployment is temporary, even though the process may feel like forever. It is common to face rejections from job applications – be patient and kind to yourself, and try not to take rejections personally. Surround yourself with positive people who lift you up, watch inspiring movies, and read positive books that renew your purpose. If the symptoms persist and severely affect your mental health, consider seeking professional help.
“I will get on with life.”
“I will take control of my job search.”
You have come to accept the reality of your job loss, and begin to take charge of your job search. You believe that with the right guidance and effort, you can find a job you enjoy and find fulfilment in.
Word of Advice: Job loss may be seen as an unfortunate situation, but it is also a valuable opportunity for you to re-evaluate priorities, refocus your career direction, and grow in self-awareness and resilience. Consider spending the extra time with your loved ones, try volunteering, and showing kindness to others. Find something to be thankful for and celebrate little milestones in your job search journey – such as updating your resume, creating a profile on LinkedIn, and securing an interview.
Every individual’s experience with job loss is unique. You may not experience these emotions in a linear fashion, or undergo all or just a few stages of job loss. What is important is to keep your mind calm and know that nothing is unbeatable! You got this!