Most people make the assumption that grief and loss are only experienced with the death of a loved one. However, loss comes in many other life experiences and grief is often the resulting emotional reaction. The experience of job loss is no exception, and can include primary as well as, secondary losses. Primary losses include the loss of income and benefits. However it is the secondary losses that can cause a large part of our anxiety and impact our ability to cope. These secondary losses can include: loss of status, loss of respect, loss of confidence, loss of hope, loss of belief in the future, and loss of trust of others.
As a result of these real and perceived losses, the individual who has lost his/her job is most certainly experiencing the emotions of grief; which can result in feelings of anxiety, depression, and hopelessness. The important thing to remember is that these are normal reactions to grief and require much the same care as those grief reactions that occur after the death of a loved one.
Among some of the basic truths about grieving are that it is highly individualized and is a normal, acceptable, and healthy reaction to loss. The grieving process has no time limit, and often takes longer than is usually recognized. Physiological symptoms such as headaches, back pain, and stomach upset are real reactions to grief. Feelings of guilt are natural, and second-guessing past decisions and actions is to be expected. However, if acknowledged and processed appropriately, grief can also provide unexpected opportunity for growth.
Seeking out and maintaining a support system is the single most significant task of coping with loss of any kind. This includes the emotional support of loved ones who care about us, and can also encompass a formal support group. People in similar circumstances can provide emotional support as well as, networking opportunities that might otherwise be unavailable to the individual alone.
Being organized can be very helpful in managing the crisis of job loss. When so much feels out of control, the person’s ability to structure his/her time and job seeking efforts can provide a sense of order and of being in control of the situation.
Journaling can be a very useful tool in managing stress and anxiety. Very often, we express our feelings differently in writing than we do verbally. Sometimes we can put on paper things that we could never say aloud about our fears and anxieties.
Lastly, it is important to remember the power of prayer in our lives, especially when we face our greatest challenges. Individuals facing job loss are often plagued with doubt in God’s plan for their life. We must remember that while He does answer our prayers, it is seldom in the way we expect or at the time we would prefer!
An individual’s ability to successfully navigate the enormous challenge of job loss affords him/her the opportunity to look back and identify the learning and personal growth that the situation provided. The skills and the personal wherewithal that we use to resolve each difficulty we face offers us new tools to add to our toolbox for future challenges.