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Layoffs and Grief: Healthy Ways to Care for Yourself After Job Loss

By Danita Morales Ramos, PhD

Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA production

Over the last few years, people have experienced many changes that have impacted them personally and professionally. These changes have resulted in migration, relationship problems, and financial distress. One of these changes has been changes in corporate culture and structures. Over 120,000 layoffs have occurred in the tech field this year, along with other massive corporate layoffs. 

Photo by Ron Lach

Many individuals experience a sense of loss of grief after being laid off. Grief is a natural occurrence after any loss, not just death. For some, losing a job is “death” to an identity they developed as an employee. Losing employment status and work relationships can devastate one’s mental health if proper self-care is not implemented.

Below are a few self-helpful strategies for dealing with job loss or layoff:

Remember your worth. You’re worth more than a job. You possess marketable skills. You’ve likely overcome challenges before, and you can overcome new ones. Consider starting your own business with your skillset. Some people would gladly pay you to teach them your skills. 

Photo by Alex Green

Understand grief is a process. Grief usually occurs in five stages–denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance–which may not occur linearly. For some, denial may be ignoring the potential of being laid off when multiple layoffs have occurred at one’s organization. It can also appear as a lack of motivation to move forward while grieving after a job loss, with the hope that one may get their job back. 

Give yourself permission to grieve. Some may find it hard to grieve as they believe they are ungrateful when they receive severance packages or have the means to survive for several months. They minimize their job loss by considering others who may be less fortunate than themselves. This is also a form of denial. One’s loss is one’s loss; it does not matter that the loss may not monetarily be the same as others. 

Acknowledge and express anger healthily. It is okay to feel anger and feel a sense of injustice. Use anger to motivate yourself to focus more on the things you value rather than the job or things you lost. Spend time alone journaling to articulate your feelings and grief. Work out at the gym to let off some steam. 

Refuse to blame. Blaming yourself, your former employer, or others will not help you. It will cause you to feel helpless and offer you no solution to potential problems you may face. Instead of assigning blame, assume responsibility for what needs to be done now.

Learn new skills. View your layoff as an opportunity to discover new aspects of yourself. Learn new skills. Try something you considered in the past but did not pursue because you were working. 

Connect with nature. Go outside, talk daily walks, or do some work in the yard. Connecting with nature and staying busy doing productive things will lead to experiencing greater contentment than staying in the house and focusing on your job loss. 

Photo by Elina Fairytale

Focus on the now. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness can be instrumental during this time. Gratitude is an attitude of focusing on the abundance in your life rather than what you lack. It can change an already stressful situation into a manageable one. Mindfulness is the art of focusing on what is happening in the present. When you practice mindfulness, you distract yourself from ruminating on the past or what has gone wrong and distract you from the tendency to worry about the future. Worry creates more distress and can lead to long-term mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich

Seek professional help. We all can use support from time to time. Some people may not have anyone they feel comfortable talking to about their grief and problems. Talking to a counselor allows you to talk with someone confidentially who is unbiased about your situation. Many corporations have offered employee assistance counseling free to their current and former employees. Additionally, community or local agencies may help with finding employment in your area, such as workforce programs or community college employment centers. Take advantage of these resources to help you deal with mental distress and seek employment. 

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