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Coping With Change

Losing your job can affect every aspect of your life.

How you react to job loss depends on:

  • Your personal circumstances. Your age, career stage, education, skills, financial situation, support network and attitude all affect how you cope with this major transition. If you were very committed to your job, regardless of your age or career stage, being laid off can be overwhelming.
  • The circumstances of your layoff. How you heard the news and how your employer treated you can affect your response. You may feel shocked, confused, angry or powerless—or ready to make a change and take on a new opportunity.

Your reaction to job loss is as unique as you are, so whatever you’re feeling is normal for you. This article will help you cope with the effects of your layoff.

Allow yourself to grieve

Losing a job can be as devastating as losing a loved one. You may experience all or some of the following stages of grief:

  • Shock and denial
  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Withdrawal

Because grief is an individual experience, you may not experience all stages or you may go through them in a different order. The key is to acknowledge your feelings so that you can:

  • Give yourself permission to have bad days
  • Work through your changing emotions in your own way
  • Recognize that you didn’t ask for or deserve what happened
  • Avoid dwelling on things you can’t change
  • Accept the reality of your situation
  • Get help if you need it

Check out Additional Information at the end of this article.

Manage change in your relationships

A layoff can often lead to changes in your relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

You’ve probably lost daily contact with co-workers, clients and colleagues. The following suggestions will help manage the transition:

  • Co-workers may feel guilty about keeping their jobs and afraid that they may be next to lose them—good reasons to feel uncomfortable approaching you. Break the ice by reaching out to them first.
  • If you did not have a chance to say good-bye at work, call your closest co-workers or meet them for lunch or coffee to say your good-byes.
  • When you’ve said good-bye, make a conscious choice about whether or not to maintain contact. If you think staying in touch would be positive, include your former co-workers in your support network.
  • If your workplace was the hub of your social life, fill that space with regular contact with friends and family.

Your layoff affects not only you but also the people who are closest to you—your spouse or partner, children, parents, siblings, roommates and others. Help them through the transition by:

  • Avoiding the temptation to protect adult family members from the realities of your job loss. Discuss the emotional and financial affects of your layoff openly. Share your feelings and encourage adult family members to do the same. Give them a chance to be supportive.
  • Setting aside regular time with your spouse that doesn’t involve discussions about your layoff.
  • Staying positive when talking with your children. Encourage them to share their feelings and fears with you.

Friends and relatives may also be affected by your layoff. Let your own needs and the closeness of each relationship determine how you respond:

  • You may want to contact specific relatives and friends. Let them know about your layoff and ask them to be part of your support network. You may choose not to contact those who are likely to bring you down.
  • Ask for the support you need. That can mean both giving you help and allowing you emotional space.
  • Avoid making your situation the focus of the relationship. Remember to give as well as take.

Take care of yourself

You may be surprised how much you miss the structure, recognition and sense of belonging that going to work provides. You may find that the stress of losing your job affects your emotions, behaviour, state of mind, and physical well-being.

Now more than ever, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings and take care of yourself:

  • Avoid rushing into a replacement job you may regret later. Give yourself time to work through your emotions before making important decisions. At the same time, realize that the longer you wait, the harder it may be to get back into the workforce.
  • Develop a new routine that encourages you to get up in the morning and out of the house. Staying in touch with what’s going on in your field and your community will help you develop new contacts and maintain your self-esteem.
  • Set daily goals you know you can accomplish, like calling a friend or colleague or visiting your nearest Alberta Supports Centre. Set long-term goals when you feel ready.
  • Redefine yourself outside of work. Volunteer, take a course, or pursue a hobby.
  • Take charge of your life:
    • Keep your mind and body active.
    • Put a positive spin on things.
    • Do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  • Get professional help if you need it:
    • If your former employer offers transition services such as career or personal counselling, take advantage of them.
    • Ask your family doctor for a referral to a counsellor.

Losing your job doesn’t mean you’re a different person with less value or fewer skills. As you come to terms with your job loss, you are reacting in a normal way to forces beyond your control—whether corporate policy or the global economy—that have profoundly changed your life. When you focus on the things you can change and let go of the rest, you’ll be ready to move on with your life and career.

Additional Information

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