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Layoffs

It’s Just a Job. Why Can’t I Get Over it?

(Stop Sign) It's just a job. Why Can't I Get Over It?

Whether you’ve been laid off or you’re still employed, at some point in your career, you may ask yourself, “why can’t I get over this?” Changes at work usually bring on these feelings and most people don’t know what to do with themselves. They have no idea they’re grieving the former and resisting the latter. In this post, I’ll be speaking mostly to the people that have been laid off. However, this information is applicable to the employed contingent as well. If you’re feeling burnt out, depressed, suffering from anxiety or like you’re just not getting anywhere in your job, let me know if you feel like any of this applies to you too?

Grieving Your Loss Of Identity/Income/etc.

When people talk about grief and mourning, it’s usually due to the loss of a loved one or a revered relationship. It’s rarely associated with the loss of one’s job because…it’s just a job. Some people expect you to get over it because:

  1. There is more to life than work, and
  2. They fully expect you to land on your feet (because you always do).

Mind you, both of those statements are true, but after you lose your job, getting over it usually means you have A LOT of work to do. (Yes, you’ll be working alright.)

Welcome to the Most Important Job You’ll Ever Have!

Working your way through the five stages of grief* is no easy feat and you may not even know you’re doing it. We’ll cover the stages in no particular order and people (myself included) reportedly jump from stage to stage. Use this information to help you understand what’s going on in your head. It’s knowledge and awareness to help you press on!

Shock & Denial

This is probably the easiest stage as it delays the inevitable; however, it could be the shortest (if it happens at all!) Heck, you may even have your (former) co-workers living in denial with you especially if none of you saw this coming. When reality sets in (and hopefully you let it rear its head), the fact is, no one is irreplaceable and it can happen at any time. The decision is final and your position no longer exists. Recognize when you’re in denial and then work your way forward.

Tip: When you’re in shock and/or denial, write down “why?” What can they not possibly do without you? Why are YOU the only answer to these problems? This may sound like it’s keeping you in denial but you can use these thoughts to figure out what you will want to focus on moving forward. (These will likely be your strengths or a soft skill you excel in. Don’t forget them!)

Anger & Frustration

Many immediately enter this stage upon hearing the news their jobs no longer exist. It’s actually the flip side of denial as you’re actively addressing the issue and it makes you mad! Good for you. Get mad so you can get it out of your system and move on! (Caveat: I’m not advocating taking your anger out on anyone or anything. I’m talking about acknowledging the fact you’re angry.) There’s nothing wrong with you. It’s actually very normal…regardless of how even keeled you appear on the outside.

Tip: Write down why you’re mad and either shred it afterwards or keep it in a safe, private place. I would encourage you to keep it so you can reference it later. What’s most important is you do it. Also, I hate to break it to you, but you may be back in the anger/frustration phase as you go through your job search. Keeping track of what’s frustrating you will help you identify patterns and things you may want to avoid – or improve on – moving forward. (Shocking, I know.)

Bargaining

Traditionally, this is thought of as the time to negotiate your departure or to ask your manager to reconsider. Rarely does this turn things around but it’s natural to want to try. Believe it or not, I’ve heard stories of people being told how their managers bargained on their behalf before final decisions were made. (It actually happened to me once!) While that’s nice to hear, the reality is the job is gone.

To be honest, I had a hard time wrapping my head around this stage but I realized I did a bit of bargaining with myself after my first layoff. Yes, another form of bargaining has to do with yourself. I know, that sounds weird, but as you embark on your job search, you’ll likely have many parameters on what you want/need to do next. Whether you know it or not (I didn’t), you’re bargaining with yourself. That’s good. Keep at it! I truly hope the better bargainer leads to a happier existence at the end of all this!

Tip: Write down what you’re willing to compromise on in your next role. Is it title, money, industry? I’m not saying you will have to compromise but actively writing down what you want (and why) will help crystalize what’s important to you at this time. (Are you sensing a theme to these tips yet…?! I used to write a lot when I was younger, then work happened. Resisting the act of writing can be a form of denial so take that as you wish!) 😉

Depression & Anxiety

I believe everyone suffers from some form of depression and/or anxiety (at some point in their lives), especially when it comes to work. It doesn’t matter if you were laid off, fired, quit or if you’re still working. Our jobs are intrinsically tied to our sense of self, purpose and general well being (for better or worse). When something is out of whack with your work life, you may find yourself feeling depressed, suffering from anxiety or battling stress. Again, this is very normal, and in all honesty can be the hardest stage to overcome.

Tip: Write about what makes you happy in general (hopefully it’s not work). If you’re like most people (myself included) you probably have too much of your identity wrapped up in your job. If you can identify what truly makes you happy (and why), try to incorporate some of that happiness into every day. It’s also important to keep yourself OUT of isolation as much as you can. If you stay active in mind and body, that should help keep you moving forward…literally and figuratively!

Important: If you suffer from clinical depression, please seek professional help. Visit this link (https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment/low-cost-treatment#) for information on how to seek treatment even if you don’t have insurance or resources to cover it at this time.

Acceptance

Contrary to what you might be thinking, acceptance doesn’t mean you’re back on your feet. It merely means you’ve come to a point where you realize you can’t change anything from the past. You’re ready to move forward. Your normal as you knew it is gone and you’re working on becoming more comfortable with your ‘new normal’.

If you look around and feel like others jump right to acceptance, don’t be fooled by their facades. I bet if you were to have an honest conversation with him/her, you would hear about how they whizzed through these different stages without even knowing it. (By the way, do yourself a favor and stop comparing yourself to others, especially at this point in your career. You need to focus on you, ‘nuff said.)

In summary…

As I mentioned near the beginning, some people don’t go through all the stages and some people jump from stage to stage and back again. We all go through this in our own time. If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’ll likely revisit some or all of these stages. (Sorry, being honest here!) This is where your writings will come in handy. Review your thoughts & feelings as you went through this process and use that information to inform your next steps.

You’re resilience is being tested for one reason or another. The bad news is, building resilience is not necessarily easy (and it’s definitely not ‘fun’). It takes work. The good news is, you’ll come out on the other end having mended these tears and ready to get back on your feet. Yes, you’ll be stronger and more resilient. Now that doesn’t suck!

Tell Us What You Think?

Are you grieving the loss of your job? What stages have you been in? Do you have any other tips or advice for others going through any of these stages? This post is based on my perspective and many discussions I’ve had with others. Everyone has different experiences and it would be helpful to hear about yours’ in the comments below.

*Based on the Kübler-Ross model of the  five stages of grief.

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Home Forums It’s Just a Job. Why Can’t I Get Over it?

This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  YeahItSucks 1 month ago.

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  • #8776 Score: 1 | Reply

    ThisIsMyUsername
    Participant
    3 pts

    I’ve been through four layoffs, but two of them lasted an extended period, ranging from 10 to 14 months of unemployment. I should also mention that I live in one of the country’s most expensive cities, which certainly doesn’t help my situation. I can relate to these stages, particularly during those two periods of extended unemployment, as I had plenty of time to allow feelings to fester, which is certainly not healthy. Typically, my immediate reaction upon being laid off is a sense of numbness. That then jumps right to acceptance, where I accept being laid off as a business decision that had nothing to do with me or my performance. The longer I’m out of work, the more my feelings evolve. Acceptance then becomes sadness and self-pity. I start to doubt my worth, wondering why I’m still unemployed after several months (“What am I doing wrong?!”). I then start to think about others whose jobs were saved and I begin to really question the decision. That turns into anger (“It’s not fair! I worked longer hours. I cared more.”).

    Ultimately, none of these feelings is getting me any closer to finding a job, but I do believe they’re necessary to go through to come out somewhat healed on the other end. What I didn’t expect is that some of these feelings would stick with me even after I found a job. Four layoffs is a lot to go through–especially when they happened in a relatively short period of time. A couple of years later, I’m still having a hard time getting past it. They say you shouldn’t dwell on your past since you can’t change it. But sometimes you can’t help it. It’s affected me in a deeply profound way. So am I totally healed? Definitely not.

    Now, I’m trying not to put as much emphasis on my career (we’ll see how long I’m able to do that). Just as is stated above, we tend to place value on ourselves and others based on our employment. Think about it. What’s the first thing you typically ask someone upon meeting them for the first time? “What do you do?” It’s rarely, “What are your interests?” or “What fulfills you?” Careers are important, but they’re only a part of a life. And it’s your holistic life that matters. So one thing I’ve learned over time is that a good work-life balance is important to me. If I can’t get fulfillment from my day-to-day job, I need to have time to pursue the things that do make me feel whole inside–even if I’m not paid to do them (if they’re really worth that much to you, you’d do it whether or not you’re paid). None of this is an easy pill to swallow. I’d still love the great job, the promotion, the salary, etc. But I’m working at shifting my perception of what success is. And for me, that isn’t found in a small desk in a dark corner of an office.

    • #8778 Score: 0 | Reply

      YeahItSucks
      Moderator

      Thank you, ThisIsMyUsername for sharing your additional perspectives and experiences. You’re obviously going through all of the stages still as you said you’ve been affected in a deeply profound way. 🙁

      Your outlook is admirable in light of your experiences and it’s true you’re not going to find your true happiness tucked away in a cubicle/desk in an office. If the bargaining keeps you employed so you can do some of the things that make you happy while you seek a fulfilling job, that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s smart and you’re surviving.

      I am going to take your tip on not asking people what they do for a living anymore. That’s one way to break the unhealthy attachment we have to our jobs. From here on out, it’s going to be “what makes you happy?” 👍

  • #8790 Score: 1 | Reply

    TexasEx

    This article is dead on. I’ve been through a number of layoffs (7) myself and I’m in Human Resources. Out of all of them, only the last one gave me a sense of relief. I agree our society places a huge emphasis on what we do for a living and we aren’t very good with knowing how to respond to someone who has lost their job. Lets face it, being unemployed makes other people uncomfortable. In my opinion, it reminds them that it could just as easily happen to them as well. More importantly they have to question if they would be ready for it or not; most people aren’t. Once they heard I was unemployed a lot of them quickly distanced themselves from me, which only added to my feelings of isolation (which would lead to depression).

    The last lay off lasted almost a year with multiple bouts of feelings of isolation/depression and pity parties. But in between I did a lot of self reflection and bargaining with myself. I also researched what I could do during the day on my budget. My goal became to get out of the house at least once a day and be around people. I found myself going to free days at the museum; community yoga classes (also free), hanging out in coffee shops using their WIFI while I looked for jobs, and I volunteered. For me volunteering kept me grounded and it put things into perspective; plus I met some really great people and it made me feel better as a human being. Above all these kept me connected, not isolated and feeling depressed.

    Being in a job search can be tough and being unemployed can be scary. Hang in there and by all means take advantage of all the wonder things you can do in your community you may not have been able to do while you were working. Another positive – you get to avoid rush hour!

  • #8854 Score: 1 | Reply

    NotAChump
    Participant
    1 pt

    I’m really enjoying A) this article, and B) the replies. I think it’s fantastic to feel some sense of camaraderie and “belonging” in this community, no matter how transient it is. And let’s face it, we all want it to be a transient community where we all move on to whatever it is that makes us happy (or pays the bills in the meantime), sooner than later.

    For my part, the things that @TexasEx raises are really salient to me. Finding things to do each day, getting out of the house, volunteering. All excellent. I find that when I spend too much time with my own thoughts it can get out of control. Another thing I’ve found helpful is routine. Make the bed in the morning. Empty the dishwasher. Keep on top if the housekeeping. For me at least this mix of routine and also keeping everything tidy keeps my mind tidy as well.

    I also recently saw a video online (you may have seen it as well), a former Navy SEAL chief was talking about the routing of making their beds when they were cadets. At first it seemed a trivial, stupid task. They wanted to be fighters, after-all. But what they learned was that accomplishing that single goal each day, set them up for accomplishing more goals. A snowball effect. And that is certainly true for me.

    Enough about beds 😉 Thank you for creating this community @yeahitsucks, and everyone’s contributions.

    NotAChump
    (6 months and counting)

    • #8857 Score: 0 | Reply

      YeahItSucks
      Moderator

      Hi, AMC747, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, we all want this to be transient but we’re here as a service to anyone that doesn’t feel like they have anyone they can open up to. Sometimes, you just need to sense check things and I hope this can be a place where people feel safe to test the waters and get things off their chest/out of their heads!

      BTW, I haven’t seen that video from the former Navy SEAL. If you have a link, can you share it? I may go try to find it as well. I agree it’s the little goals that will help many feel productive. You better make your bed every day so you can snowball towards good things and progress!

  • #8855 Score: 1 | Reply

    ThisIsMyUsername
    Participant
    3 pts

    I can vouch for volunteering. Just because you’re out of work doesn’t mean you can’t be building your resume. I’ve been with a volunteer organization for years, and a couple of years ago I became a team leader with that organization. I’m still a volunteer (so I’m not paid to be a team leader), but I oversee teams of volunteers and I work closely with the organization we’re helping. These are things that help me to stay active and hone my leadership skills. And, much to my surprise, one of my volunteers from over a year ago happened to remember me and reached out with a job opportunity at his company! You just never know who’s out there and willing to help. So plant the seed that you’re looking for work, and even if you’re not, tell people what you’d like to be doing. They may remember and come across an opportunity at some point. It seems unlikely, but it happened to me! Ultimately, the opportunity didn’t lead to anything for me (not yet, anyway), but I was grateful just knowing someone remembered me, and that I made a good enough impression on him that he was willing to refer me. (I’m also a Texas Ex, by the way. 🙂 )

    I like that @amc747 mentions making your bed. I make sure to make mine every day. For me, it’s a matter of starting the day off right. I don’t know if it really works to help me accomplish larger goals, but I’m able to leave my house feeling accomplished, even if it’s just a little thing. So I agree. Stay active. Keep the routine going. I fell into a bad trap during my first round of unemployment when I was out of work for over a year. I was staying up until 4am and getting out of bed around 4pm. No good.

    • #8858 Score: 0 | Reply

      YeahItSucks
      Moderator

      Excellent points, ThisIsMyUserName, and that’s great you got a job lead from volunteering! I know TexasEx mentioned it above and I plan to do a post on tips to bounce back and stay positive, so keep an eye out for that. (Of course, if you have other tips, feel free to share them here and I can incorporate into a post moving forward!) Funny that we now have two ex-Texans here. LOL! Thanks again for sharing your experience. It’s super helpful!

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