How to Deal With Grief After Losing Your Job


The consequences of a job or financial loss can be jarring. The stress relating to losing a job can lead to a person’s declining psychological, emotional, and physical well-being. Learning coping strategies for job loss-related grief is essential to recovering from the resulting low self-esteem, anxiety, and other symptoms that may appear soon after.

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Other ways that grief affects you following a significant job loss can lead to feelings of failure, self-doubt, denial, and anger. These feelings of grief and different types of grief reactions are valid even when there wasn't a long period of unemployment between jobs.

Factors affecting grief's impact on an individual include the length of employment before dismissal, financial or social status, and the circumstances leading up to the termination. Any job loss-related outcome can lead to a profound sense of grief and loss in an individual. 

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Can You Grieve the Loss of Your Job?

Losing a job or primary source of financial support and resources can lead to different stress levels in an individual. The level at which it affects someone may largely depend on how a person perceives the job loss threat. One person who has lost their job may feel anxious over how they’ll replace their income.

At the same time, another person may see losing their position as an opportunity for career growth in another field. A person who's invested a lot of time, effort, and education to obtain a particular position will feel a more considerable impact over someone who doesn't have any attachment to their job. 

What Are the Stages of Grief After Losing a Job?

Grief over a job loss can manifest in the same way as other types of suffering. The effects can also be exacerbated depending on various factors. For example, you may have a different reaction when you lose a job versus a career. Other factors to consider are whether the loss was your only source of income and how much your identity tied into your work.

Bereavement symptoms often remain steady over time without proper treatment following a significant job loss. Whether you're experiencing mourning versus grief is also a consideration when trying to understand the grieving process and heal from a loss. 

Overall, the grief stages associated with job loss are similar to other types of grief experienced following a significant loss. There are generally five stages of grief that you should expect to experience after a job loss. They are as follows:

1. Denial

Any job loss can result in feelings of isolation even when the dismissal wasn't personal such as in layoffs or involuntary business shutdowns. To an employee, any reason for the termination of employment can feel discretionary. It's not uncommon to feel shame and isolation following a job loss.

2. Anger

Feeling angry about losing your job and the circumstances of your termination are normal grief responses to job loss. When many sacrifices and hard work go into attaining a particular job or position, it can feel as though your efforts are undervalued, causing anger and resentment. 

3. Bargaining

Part of the bargaining phase of job loss grief attributes to feelings of desperation as the new job search begins. A person who has lost their job may feel anxious and afraid of not finding another job or having enough financial means to support themselves or their families.

These feelings of hopelessness or despair can lead to applying for many jobs without much thought about qualifications, pay, or job satisfaction. 

4. Depression

Depression is a shared grief effect following a job loss. Unemployment can lead to feelings of lowered self-worth and self-esteem. When left unchecked, it can lead to prolonged feelings of sadness and despair. A person who's depressed may have difficulty functioning in daily life and may feel debilitating sorrow making it challenging to find new work. 

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5. Acceptance

Losing your job can be challenging to accept, especially if you feel that the termination was somehow biased or unfair. Getting to the point of accepting having to find a new job may take some time. You can expect to go through all the possible reasons why you lost your position in your head.

Allowing this process to take form and going through the motions is a healthy way of coping with your job loss. Eventually, you'll recognize that there's nothing that you can do to change the circumstances, and you'll move on from it. 

How to Cope With Grief After Losing Your Job

Job loss can lead to symptoms of complicated grief that may be difficult to recognize. Experiencing a sudden loss such as getting fired from your job can lead to a lack of acceptance and overall denial of the event. As a result, you may develop chronic health issues such as headaches, fatigue, or gastrointestinal problems. 

These are all symptoms and manifestations of inhibited grief. You'll need to develop ways in which to cope with your grief after a job loss. As you work through the most debilitating and challenging aspects of your grief, you may find that these coping strategies help you get past the pain and suffering you're experiencing. 

Take time to grieve

Allowing yourself time to grieve over your job loss is not only healthy but helpful in getting you motivated to bounce back from this setback.

Taking time out to assess how you feel after a significant loss is an integral part of the grieving process. If you're the sole financial provider in your family, it's doubly essential to allow yourself adequate time to heal from this type of loss. 

Establish a daily routine

Getting up at the same time and beginning each day with intent and purpose will help fuel your desire to get back in a job-search frame of mind.

Routines can also help keep you aligned with your goals and help you with your overall grief recovery. When your day starts unstructured, getting motivated to stick to your daily job search goals becomes nearly impossible.

Banish negative self-talk

Talking yourself into believing that the world is unjust or feeding your thoughts with the idea that your termination was somehow unfair and unwarranted will negatively fuel your actions. Negative self-talk is sabotaging and can set you up for failure when looking for new employment.

Try limiting the amount of time you spend reliving your termination and instead focus your energy on assessing your skills and determining how to best move forward.

Explore your options

Get out there and socialize, network, and reconnect with people you know from your alma mater, your old jobs, and your soccer league. Get the word out that you’re looking for a new position and ask people you know for referrals.

Try and keep an open mind when deciding what type of work to accept. Embrace each opportunity that comes your way. You never know when a new connection or a new position will open the door to the job of your dreams. 

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How to Help a Loved One Cope With Grief After They Lose Their Job

Career-minded individuals are likely to feel an attachment and a greater sense of loss following involuntary employment termination. They may grieve over the loss of their job, their lost identity as it relates to their position, and may have difficulty finding new meaning in any future work they undertake.

In such cases, grief symptoms are sometimes difficult to recognize or detect. Mourning over the loss of a job isn’t unusual. Here are a few ways to help a loved one get through after suffering a job loss.

Offer support

An overall lack of awareness that complicated grief can occur after a job loss is one way that may lead to chronic depression. Consider asking your loved ones how you can help them get through this challenging time.

If they can’t think of any specific ways, offer to connect them with your professional network who may have employment opportunities for them. Just being present can keep someone from falling deeper into despair. 

Give them encouragement

Encouraging, supporting, and motivating your loved ones as they struggle to cope with their grief can do wonders for their confidence and self-esteem. You can be their greatest cheerleader by reminding them of their talents and strengths.

Consider sending short texts throughout the day to let them know that you’re thinking of them. Remain positive in your messages, and keep reminding them of all the ways they’re a fantastic asset to any employer.

Take them out to lunch

Make a standing appointment to meet your loved one for lunch at least once a week until they find another job. This will give them the motivation to get dressed and get out of the house. A standing appointment with you will also give them something positive to look forward to each week and may keep them from falling into deep despair.

Suggest counseling

Your job loss will undoubtedly significantly impact your life and your overall mental health and well-being. Reach out and ask for help when you need it. Suffering through grief is a real consequence of losing a job or professional position.

Those prone to depression may need additional support or the help of a professional grief counselor to help them bounce back.

Grief After Loss of Job

Getting back on your feet after suffering the setback of a job loss may seem daunting. The overall pressure, fear, and anxiety you may feel after losing your job may be too overwhelming to cope with. Depression and detachment are typical symptoms of this type of grief.

It’s essential to take action each day to get you closer to getting another job and help keep you from falling deeper into hopelessness and despair.

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