Those who lose their jobs need sympathy, not dismissal

Tuesday , March 18, 2014 - 4:35 PM

Ron Campbell

I have had numerous phone calls regarding my column on job loss two weeks ago and the stages of grief that come with it.

One woman in particular reported that she was fired a week earlier, after 27 years of employment with the same company. It came as a shock, and, she was dealing with feelings of grief exactly as the column indicated.

It is critically important to understand these stages of grief, to recognize they are normal feelings and then to give yourself permission to feel them. Sadly, many of her friends have made comments that she should “just pull it together and go out and get another job.”

“It’s just a job,” some even said.

While pulling it together and getting another job is the ultimate outcome, dealing with job loss in the midst of deep feelings of grief is not an easy task, and, it is not at all that simple to do.

The woman went on to talk about how she can’t sleep and stays awake at night wondering what she could have done differently to avoid getting fired. She is second guessing every move she made in the past 27 years. This too is normal.

As our emotions slowly adapt to the reality of having lost a job, they are also beginning the emotional healing process. By feeling denial and depression, our emotions can, with time, begin to mend. Time is the only true healer of any grief we may be experiencing.

Thankfully, all grief can eventually be overcome. For some, it may take a few weeks. For others, a few months. And for some, it may even take a few years. This latter example is when professional counseling may be needed. If so, it’s OK to get professional help. Hopefully we are all beyond any stigma that was once associated with seeking professional help as we need it.

Because no one has a crystal ball that can look into the future to help us know how long this process may take, all we can do is our best, and then deal with each stage of grief as it comes.

For most of us, dealing with each stage of grief is to first recognize your feelings are normal, and then give yourself permission to feel them. Time will take us through the process at its own rate.

To recap the five stages of grief as identified by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying”:

Since its publication, the field of psychology has come to recognize that these five stages of grief apply universally to a long list of major traumas or losses in our lives, not just death and dying. Job loss is high on that list.

Fortunately, we are resilient and can progress through these stages to the ultimate outcome of acceptance. But, there is no way to know how long this process may take, and some may find themselves reverting back to feelings they once thought were behind them. This too is normal.

For those who have friends or relatives who have lost a job, please remember the last thing someone dealing with such an emotional event needs to hear is something like, “It’s just a job,” or “Just pull it together and go out and get a job.”

There is nothing like words such as, “This must be tough to go through,” or “It’s hard to imagine how difficult this may be for you.”

Ron Campbell has worked extensively in the job preparation and job search industry. He can be reached at or 801-386-1111.

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