Coping with Job Loss

With the decline of our economy in today’s world, job loss through company closures, downsizing and layoffs is on a steep incline. Many people are suddenly faced with the stresses of paying bills and taking care of their own life and their family, while at the same time trying to cope with the emotional impact that loss of employment brings. In addition to the loss of a job, unemployment causes:

  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of financial stability
  • Loss of a sense of personal stability and safety/security
  • Loss of a sense of purposeful activity and daily routine

Unemployment, death of a loved one, and divorce are considered to be the most stressful and debilitating things an individual can ever go through. If you are struggling to make ends meet while facing the devastating effects of unemployment, our hearts go out to you. Even though it is an extremely difficult time, and nothing can bring your old job (or a new one) back quick enough, there are things to keep in mind to help ease you through the transition:

  1. Try your best to keep a regular routine and take care of yourself the best you can. If possible, keep the same schedule you had with regular employment, including sleep, meals, exercise and extracurricular activities. It’s easy to fall into depression following unemployment, especially if it was sudden or unexpected. Keeping a regular routine not only helps you keep a sense of purpose, it allows you to stay in the same routine for when you find new employment, as well as maintains best practice for taking care of yourself.
  2. Process your feelings and surround yourself with a good support system. Common feelings following the loss of employment are shock, disbelief, anger, frustration, sadness, hopelessness, confusion, discouragement, and fear. People often go through the five stages of grief: Shock/Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression, and Acceptance. It’s important to have a good support system while going through this process, and even more important to express and work through all of the feelings that arise, so you don’t take them with you into the next job. Make sure not to take out your feelings on your spouse or loved ones, since they are the people you need the most during such a difficult time. Acknowledge the loss and give yourself time to grieve properly. Even if it’s a couple of close friends or family members, you need to find someone who is supportive and encouraging- someone you can discuss your feelings with. The best support system is one that is encouraging, listens well, and also can help you stay on the right track by being honest and direct if needed. It is also helpful to keep a journal during such a difficult time. Vent feelings of anger and resentment through physical exercise, catching up on doing things around your home that you have postponed due to a lack of time, and getting involved in community activities. If you have children, help them understand what is going on in your family without discussing too much of the financial fears. Children are extremely perceptive and can recognize when something in the family isn’t right- even when you haven’t told them. Include them in family communication. Children can be understanding and supportive when they know they aren’t to blame.
  3. Find balance in your identity. It’s very common for individuals in our society to base their identity on their career. Job loss can feel like your whole identity has been taken away from you. Recognize that we all wear different “hats” in our lives. For example, your role as a wife, husband, father, friend, sibling, as well as the many “hats” we wear with our hobbies, interests, spirituality, and community involvement. Our jobs aren’t the only role we play in our lives. When job loss feels like it has taken away your identity, focus on the other roles you play in your life that give you purpose and meaning. Embrace those roles, and allow them to help you find better balance in your life.
  4. Seek outside help from a professional if you feel stuck. It’s not uncommon for an individual to feel depressed following the loss of a job. The depression is temporary if you are taking steps forward and actively doing things to take control of your future. If you feel as though you are staying there too long, however, don’t hesitate to get professional help. A professional counselor or clergy can help you work through the stages of grief and help you take steps forward.
  5. Take time to reassess your career situation. While this is most definitely one of the most stressful things you will go through, be aware of the potential to get “tunnel vision”, where you are only able to see the negative part of the situation. Even though it was a very important source of self-worth and provided income, your former job could not have offered all the things in life which are important to you. After you have allowed yourself time to grieve, assess the situation in terms of your strengths, weaknesses, interests, as well as the direction you would like to head with your career. Working on finding a job can become a full time job by itself, and treating it as such is important in helping to give you feelings of purpose, structure, and direction. A professional counselor can help you with career counseling if needed. There are also many good, informative books on career-building that might be very helpful as you re-evaluate your direction. Outplacement centers are readily available to assist in the transition through unemployment to a new job, as well as offering assistance in resume building and networking with companies and other professionals going through similar situations. This process can help you change your mindset about the job loss, and can assist you turn a painful situation into a potential opportunity for something better in your future.
  6. Above all else, try not to get discouraged. Take whatever steps are needed to communicate with those involved in your situation. There is so much fear that comes with the loss of income. Contact your creditors and let them know what you are facing. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help when needed. You will most likely be surprised by the number of people who are willing to help you if you put your pride aside to ask for what you need. There are many organizations that can assist with everything from food and clothing to emotional support.

If you are experiencing the devastating effects of unemployment, feel free to contact our office for more information and resources. Imagine Hope Counseling Group provides individual, family, marriage and relationship counseling to Indianapolis and the surrounding areas of Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville, Zionsville, and Westfield. You may contact us at (317) 569-0046 or via our website at