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The Emotional Trauma of Job Loss

As a career coach, I’ve provided moral support to a countless many who have found themselves in the unfortunate position of job loss. In search of solace, the phone call usually comes right after the person has received the news and the emotions are still raw. Losing one’s job can come as a shock to […]

As a career coach, I’ve provided moral support to a countless many who have found themselves in the unfortunate position of job loss. In search of solace, the phone call usually comes right after the person has received the news and the emotions are still raw. Losing one’s job can come as a shock to the system as it crushes one’s dignity and leaves you with a sense of despair. I offer comfort with the promise that something better awaits. In time, that proves to be true.

After the conversation, I can’t help but to wonder how I would react if I were to find myself in such a predicament; but I would never allow myself to ponder this for too long because it is way too scary. Losing my job has always been one my greatest fears and I prayed that it would never happen to me. Then I would snap out of it and realize that my fear was unfounded because I’ve always managed to hold onto every job I’ve ever had, even through the worst financial downturns. As my sister in-law says, “Companies don’t fire employees like you.”

However, in a unique turn of events and against all odds, my greatest fear was realized. Just a few weeks ago, I was told that my position was being eliminated; and just like that, my employment was terminated. After nine years of dedicated service to my company, I had to turn in my badge and leave the premises. Admittedly, it was a harsh way to be treated, but compassion doesn’t run deep in most corporate cultures particularly in Wall Street banks. But despite my immense fear of job loss, my reaction was surprisingly measured and somewhat dispassionate. Make no mistake, I was stunned by the news, but I wasn’t terribly upset. I didn’t take it personally even when I discovered that it was indeed personal.

To touch upon that for a moment, in my book Lose the Gum I warn readers that a situation you can’t win is one where you find yourself at odds with your boss. I know this all too well but this time, I underestimated the severity of the consequences and two days before my boss retired, she fired me. There are lessons to be learned here, not only for me but for everyone as it serves as a reminder to be careful when navigate corporate politics.

As for my job loss, I’m still processing all that I’m going through while unemployment is going to take some adjusting to, since I’ve worked for the past twenty five years, without any interruption. My entire identity has been wrapped up in my career and divorcing myself from my professional persona feels rather uncomfortable. I would also add shame to the list of feelings while ego has me questioning how this could happen to me. Each day, I find myself grappling with new emotions as I go through the seven steps of grieving: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, reconstruction and acceptance. Panic, although not a stage, is always lingering in the background and when it creeps into the forefront it sends me on a brief but desperate frenzy. Then sensibility kicks in and calms me down. This exercise repeats itself.

Other than those fleeting moments of panic, I have remained relatively calm so far. I am cautious about my sense of serenity and am waiting for the shoe to drop in anticipation of a full scale meltdown; but for some reason I don’t think it’s coming. Yes, I am frightened because I’ve never been here before but at the same time I am somewhat exhilarated about the possibilities of what could be. Over the past several years, I have laid the groundwork for a life filled with greater purpose and now I have the opportunity to pursue that path and reinvent myself. While I search for my next endeavor I remain open to all options. The question will be whether or not I will have the courage to embark on something new and totally different or will I let fear stand in my way? I suppose that only time will tell.

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