Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Dealing with Loss and Tragedy

It has been a rough couple of months - both in our nation and for me personally. As our nation reels from storms, terror attacks, and other tragedies I have been experiencing deaths, cancer diagnoses, break-ups, divorces and job losses among family and friends. The bad news has left me looking for ways to help people deal with loss and heartbreak. Since this is a blog dedicated to career services, I will relate it to that type of loss. However, I hope it can be helpful to you whenever you experience grief and loss.

Heartbreak from a job loss is different that the loss of a job, but it is no less painful and stressful. The five stages of grief are often experienced for someone who has lost their job, the same way someone who has lost a loved one. However, the laid off or terminated employee's cycle of dealing with their grief must often be accelerated in order to help them get back into the workforce and earning a living.

Stage 1 - Denial
Often this comes as refusing to accept or acknowledge the loss. We tell ourselves "this can't possibly be happening" in order to let our mind accept the truth. A few years ago my husband called me on my birthday to tell me he had just been laid off. My first words to him were, "You're kidding right?" Of course I knew he would never joke about such a thing - especially on my birthday - but denial is where my brain naturally went first. Our jobs mean quite a lot to us - some more than others - and it is okay to feel loss, grief, and anger, but we must accept the truth in order to move forward.

Stage 2/3 - Anger and Bargaining
Our natural reaction in this stage is to look for someone to blame. In the case of a job loss, it is important to evaluate if you had some part in the process so that you can learn from your mistakes. However, often job loss is outside of our control - the company simply could no longer afford your salary or no longer needed your services. It is important to forgive those involved with the job loss - that includes yourself, your boss, and the company. Holding on to anger during a job loss is not healthy and will hurt you in an interview.

In a job loss, often anger and bargaining can happen interchangeably. We try to talk our way out of being let go, try to beg or plead with them to keep our job, or we waste time wishing things were different.

Stage 4 - Depression
Depression after a job loss can be debilitating. If we are feeling depressed, hopeless, frustrated, or simply feeling sorry for ourselves it can be very difficult to put ourselves out there in the job market where we are open to more possible rejection. It is very important to surround yourself with positive, supportive people and to keep yourself active with hobbies, exercise, and networking activities. Keep in mind, no matter the type of loss you have experienced, there are people out there who have dealt with the same type of pain. In many cases, they are more than willing to help you if you just ask.

Stage 5 - Acceptance
It is hard to move on and regain employment without this stage. Accept that you are a talented person that will find their place in another organization. Try to find the good that can come from your loss. See this as a chance to meet new people, find new opportunities, and gain new skills and experience.

No matter what type of loss you are experiencing, give yourself permission to experience all the different stages. It is a natural progression. However, you must hold yourself accountable to make it through all the stages so that you can finally move on.

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