Recovering from Unexpected Job Loss or a Lay Off

While many of us are happily anticipating the promise of a new year, many others are grappling with the weight of unexpected job loss. After all, ‘tis the season for pink slips, layoffs, and workforce restructuring. Let’s face it, January can feel especially cold and gloomy for job searchers.

When we find ourselves suddenly unemployed, our first instinct is to rush to the computer to polish up our resumés and LinkedIn profiles. This feels proactive and productive. Once these tasks are done, we are left with the raw emotions of our recent experience.

How do we deal with the emotional aspects of being laid off or terminated? We are all unique and situations vary. Therefore, the process of healing is different for everyone. For some clients, the experience is quickly viewed as a “blessing in disguise.” For others, the wounds are deeper, and it takes longer to recover.

Regardless of where you are on this continuum, it is wise to take steps to process the experience in a way that leaves you feeling whole and strong. It is tough to execute and effective search when you are weighed down by emotional baggage. You don’t want to unconsciously carry negative emotions into a networking event or job interview.

Take time to grieve.

Unwanted or unexpected change almost always includes a sense of loss. Even if you were unhappy in your job and considering making a change, you will mourn the loss of the relationships and routines that work provided. You might feel a loss of identity and self-esteem. There is almost always a loss of financial security.

The impact of job loss can be similar to divorce or even the death of a loved one. When we think of it this way, it makes sense to mourn before we jump into a job search. This includes identifying your emotions and processing the experience.

Acknowledge your emotions.

Denial is a common coping mechanism. Avoid the inclination to dismiss or minimize your feelings. Are you hurt, angry, ashamed, scared, sad, vengeful, or confused? All of that and more? Give yourself permission to feel whatever is coming up for you.

The sooner you acknowledge the breadth and depth of your emotions, the sooner you will be ready and able to move forward. Name your emotions. Take time to reflect and journal about your experience.

Many people avoid looking too deeply within for fear of being overcome by their emotions. Research show that avoiding dealing with feelings can cause more stressors. The negative energy builds up and keeps you stuck.

 Talk about your experience.

Internal processing is a good start, but full recovery includes telling your story – out loud, to the right person, and in a safe setting. It is healing to share your experience with a supportive person who can listen without judgement and without rescuing.

After a termination or lay off, there is often a lingering sense of shame. We wonder what we did wrong or we worry that we might face similar issues in the next job. Some layoffs are completely random. In other cases, we might need to own some of the responsibility.

In either case, you can recover and even grow from the experience. Talking is curative. By sharing your narrative, you begin to tease out the truth. You release unhealthy feelings of shame and replace them with self-compassion and an honest appraisal of yourself and the situation. This lays the ground work for creating your next chapter.

We live in a “dust off your pants and move on” culture. Getting right back on the horse after a fall is seen as a strength. However, a strength overused can become a weakness. If you are recovering from job loss, take time to grieve. Then you can hop back in the saddle and ride off in the direction of your dreams with confidence and clarity.