You were initially shocked when you heard the news. After that, you embraced the freedom. Then you started missing the mid-afternoon conversations around the water cooler. For a while, you blamed your boss. But you were really just sad. Now, you are punishing yourself by repeatedly wondering what you could have done differently.
You are not alone.
“Whenever we experience loss, not just the loss of a human, it’s normal to go through the grieving process,” said Kimberly Key, author of Ten Keys to Staying Empowered in a Power Struggle and the Founder of Encompass Work & Family, Keys to Evolution and InstantMotivator.com.
According to Key, you are experiencing the normal reactions to unemployment that often follow the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The stages of grief, based on the Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ model, can be applied to any emotional upset, trauma or personal change. The point of the grieving process after a job loss, however, is to recognize the pain.
“You are going to go through all of the stages,” said Key. “The truth is that we don’t want to feel pain and we will do anything to distract ourselves from it.”
The irony here is that there’s nothing we can do to get away from the pain, says Key. Finding time to grieve can be a healthy and critical part of the process to achieving personal growth. But knowing the stages of grief over unemployment and allowing yourself to feel is just half the battle. The key is not to get caught up in self-pity.
“Studies show people who stay in the victim role never get anywhere,” said Key.
Holding on to the anger and resentment toward your former colleagues or boss creates a nasty bubble of negativity that can overwhelm you and waste a lot of your valuable time and energy. Once you learn how to release the negativity, you can burst that bubble and create space for positive energy to flow through. Key also says that once you have learned from your experience, you can start the process of moving on.
“Take the actions necessary, if you believe in a higher power, to get in touch with yourself,” said Key. “Ask yourself: what am I learning from this, maybe this is a redirection or maybe this is an opportunity.”
But before jumping into the fear of getting another job, Key recommends writing a journal, talking with a supportive group of trusted colleagues and friends, joining a career networking group, finding time for meditation/prayer, and working with an employment counselor. Then, says Key, you can embrace the final stage.
“There’s a hidden stage,” said Key. “Elisabeth Kübler-Ross later realized that she should have added one more stage.”
The final and sixth stage in the grieving process due to job loss is to determine the meaning of it all, says Key. In other words, “what’s the meaning or the silver lining? Maybe that job sucked; or maybe that career path just wasn’t meant for you.”
Now, you can move on.