NiceDay blog: Mourning the loss of your job

“It feels like we had a funeral for our job,” is what a friend texted me after our last group session with our manager, dedicated to saying goodbye to our job in the aviation world. 

Less than a year earlier, full of energy and dedication, we had started our course to become a cabin attendant. The world had opened up to us. Passengers from all over the world told us their stories: from refugees from Myanmar to tourists on their way to Rio de Janeiro. On board you were a babysitter, doctor, policeman, waitress and psychologist in one. One week you were having breakfast in Bergen, the next you were running a half marathon in Lima and the week after that you went whale watching in Panama.

Then suddenly Corona happened, the whole world froze and there you were, sitting at home, hearing you have lost your job. The text from my friend and colleague got me thinking. If you lose someone, a grieving process follows. Although the loss of a loved one causes greater grief than the loss of a job, the latter also involves a grieving process. The remark that we had just buried our job came from within.

In this blog I am going to elaborate on this topic and give tips on how to deal with mourning the loss of your job.

Stages of loss

Losing a job evokes various emotions, such as disappointment, frustration, sadness and anger. The following five stages of loss can help you understand your feelings:

  1. Denial

If you already know that you are going to be fired, during the first phase you may not be ready to face the reality yet.

Surely, this can’t be true?

  1. Anger

Maybe you’re angry with your boss, colleagues or with the situation in general. When you lose your job due to a situation out of your control (such as corona), you can experience feelings of anger. You feel you are the victim of the situation.

Why is this happening to me ?!

  1. Negotiation / Bargaining

You search for ways to keep your job. For example, by going to the union or court.

I’m going to do everything I can to keep my job!

  1. Depression

At some point, you become aware that you have really lost your job. In this phase, feelings of depression and stress may develop.

How am I going to find a new job?

  1. Acceptance

In this phase you have accepted that you have lost your job. You start to regain room to focus on new opportunities. This gives you new found energy, and you go for it! 

Tips for dealing with job loss

  • Allow yourself to grieve. A job is not just about making money, there is a lot more to it. Through your job you make social contacts and a job can give structure to your life. The emotions involved in losing a job are very normal: you lose a big part of your life. It is good to consider these feelings and to not push them away.
  • Share your feelings with people close to you such as family or close friends. It will feel good if your support network understands you and takes your feelings into account. If some people don’t provide you with the comfort you need, don’t linger in the pain it causes, but seek support from others.
  • You are definitely not alone in this experience. If you know others who’ve had the same experience, try to talk to them. Recognition and understanding can help you.
  • Schedule fixed times to look for new jobs. By doing this you can create a new structure, and in between applying for jobs, make some free time for fun things.
  • Allow yourself time to look further into the future. You don’t have to have three job interviews planned, the day after you get fired.
  • Adjust your expectations. Look for something that gives you positive energy. That may very well be a different job than the one you had previously. Don’t focus on job titles, but focus on what makes you happy.
  • Accept the situation. Through acceptance it is possible to open up to new possibilities.

Moving forward

In our group chat with colleagues we talked about the possibility that everything would be okay again (“Everyone wants to fly again in the summer, right ?!”). About how angry we were at Corona (“We lost our job because of Corona !!”). About our conversations with the unions (“We are all willing to work part-time!”). And about how badly we are going to miss work (“We have lost not only our job, but our entire lifestyle”).

We went through all stages of loss. When the “funeral” was over, positive messages also poured into the group chat. Someone got a job as an anesthesiologist. Another colleague was hired as a civil registrar and yet another started working as a marketing & sales professional. As we made our last trips around the world, new opportunities came our way. Those who had nothing yet were happy for those who did. Being happy that it is going well for someone else, can also give us positive energy. 

Want to read more about grief? Take a look at this blog!

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Maaike van der Kaaij

My name is Maaike and I am a psychologist at NiceDay. During sessions with my clients I find it really important they feel free to tell me everything. I am interested in people's behaviour and enjoy helping people gain new insights! Besides my work, I love my family, travelling, working out and going out to dinner.

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