The Grief Cycles of Job Loss and Death

Many people in these two circumstances we can observe to have similar behaviours. First of all there is hearing the shock of the news itself; especially if it comes totally unexpectedly. However, for many folks, even when they see the writing on the wall and the firing to come or the death of a loved one is reasonably expected, the breaking of the news itself comes as a shock.

You’re hit with the immediacy of the moment; you’ll never have a conversation with so-and-so again; you’ll never work another moment. In both situations, your sense of the norm is broken and you’re instantly aware that the future you’ll experience will be different from everything up to this moment.

Now sure for some the moment comes as a release. You hated that job anyway or it was so miserable but you might not have quit on your own so you actually appreciate the freedom to move on. Similarly, you might welcome the peace that death brings for the person who was in pain, and at the same time appreciate how those providing the ongoing hours of care and support are released from those tasks so they can turn their energies to other things. Nonetheless, in both situations, there is a period of shock that the end has come.

For many there is actually a period of bartering too. Praying to God for example saying things like, “If you’ll only get my job back I’ll be a better worker”, or “If you’ll just bring so-and-so back, I’ll go to Church regularly and be a better person.” In the end though, we don’t get our jobs back and there is no resurrection of the deceased.” So we are forced to move ahead not backward.

Anger too is a normal reaction to be expected; that moment when we yell at God or scream at the Boss who delivered the fateful news of our firing. We’re angry that things ended up this way, and we may even plot in our minds some kind of revenge. “Just you wait, oh I’ll get even” – but hopefully we don’t actually take the action and move on our feelings of bitterness, resentment, anger or hate when we aren’t thinking clearly. This would surely only damage our reputations, compound our problems and get us nowhere closer to where we need to be in order to move forward.

Again, whether it’s a death or a job loss, eventually we get to the point where we have to move on. We’ve had our period of grieving and we recognize that the only way to bring something positive into our lives is to pick ourselves up and look for new work or come to look for joy in the lives of those around us who have up until now been missing us; the person we used to be before grief overcame us.

Now this doesn’t mean we forget about the person who passed, love them or think about them any less. Similarly it doesn’t mean that we will wipe our memories clean of how the job we lost ended. If anything, we hopefully can take some things away from that experience so that it isn’t repeated. In other words, any responsibility we had for getting fired isn’t carried forth into our future jobs so the experience isn’t repeated.

The thing about this cycle of grief is that if you think on the word ‘cycle’, you’ll see it isn’t something linear, but it goes ‘round. Therefore, we might experience the shock of getting fired, get angry, then rationalize things and try to barter or plead for our jobs back only to again find ourselves angry. You and I can both experience the same event – say losing our jobs – but we may react very differently, moving through this cycle of grief in ways that make sense of the event to each of us. When this grief cycle pertains to the death of a person instead of a job loss, people react very differently as well.

This is a key thing to acknowledge and remember; we all experience the event of job loss and death differently and uniquely. So while someone in your family might go on for a long period in grief, anger, and not understand why you yourself don’t feel like they do, you might just be moving through the various stages of the grief cycle at a faster pace than them. It’s not a question of what is right or wrong, proper or improper; it’s a matter of how we as individuals experience the event.

I know when I lost a job many years ago I went right in and applied for Employment Insurance within the hour. I started looking for work immediately, moved forward and told myself I’d be working soon. Others I know who have lost jobs tend to keep things to themselves and turn to isolation and privacy.

Whenever you experience loss of work or loss of those close to you, or meet others in such circumstances, understand there’s stages to work through, and those could be rapid or long periods of time.

Written By Kelly Mitchell

The Grief Cycles of Job Loss and Death was originally published @ Employment Counselling with Kelly Mitchell and has been syndicated with permission.

Photo by JoePenna


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