Losing a job or choosing to change gears because you’re miserable in your current role, can bring on grief and mourning like the loss of a loved one. That’s probably not surprising if you’ve been suddenly let go, but it may be news to you if you are choosing to move on.
I’m currently working with someone who saw very quickly in our process that leaving their job and current career was no longer a pipe dream but rather, a “must.” We determined the criteria for happiness* in a career for them. They determined areas of interesting employment that fit that criteria, and then, when there were a couple of obstacles, grief kicked in. They had stepped out into the abyss of the unknown and it was emotionally intense.
If you are working through the morass of change, walk through Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief with me. Knowing the stages, will help you recover from them more easily. You’re not alone and there’s nothing wrong with you. You’re grieving and fearful or maybe someone you love is.
- Denial, numbness, and shock: Checking out mentally to not feel pain is a common coping mechanism. For those of you who know you’re in a job you hate, you likely go numb just to get through the day. Perhaps you’re even in denial that it’s time to move on because it’s scary to face and unknown and all the work it takes to find the next step.
- Bargaining: You may be playing over in your mind what you could’ve done differently to not have been fired or downsized or perhaps you’re making deals with yourself that if you can last two (five, ten, fifteen) more years, you’ll finally do or have that thing you’ve been putting off so it’s worth staying.This stage is holding off reality with all your might. If you catch yourself bargaining, realize what’s really going on.
- Depression: Everything is real and registering emotionally now. You might feel helpless or like you’re rolling in a wave in the ocean that has overtaken you and you’re not sure how you’ll get out.Practice being patient with yourself. You are grieving, after all. Get professional help from a therapist if depression persists. Professionals recommend seeking help if symptoms persist more than two weeks.
- Anger: Heck yes, there will be anger! You didn’t ask (or plan) to be without a job or disrupting the status quo of your life and livelihood! You have every reason to be mad.If you are leaving a position or career by choice, having surprise setbacks, or hitting obstacles to getting to your new destination can frustrate you and maybe even make you angry at yourself for leaving a ‘sure’ thing. You’ll likely get made and question the whole attempt.Do not despair! This is normal. Hopefully, you can start to channel that anger into determination instead of defeat.
- Acceptance: In time, we assimilate the loss. Whether it’s the loss of the job itself, the identity that came with it, the stability you mourn or the people you used to be with almost every day, you will reconcile with reality and find a path forward.
Grief is serious emotional work, and it can take its toll on you. Seek professional help if the feelings are overwhelming. Journal about it. Accept that there will be negative and positives, good days, and slower, heavier days. Working with a like-minded group of folks in a group where folks are up to the same goals or similar circumstances might help too.
In closing, remember that grief is a normal part of being human, even in the context of job and careers. There is no shame in it. There is a new chapter trying to emerge. Keep looking for the possibilities instead of focusing on what you are leaving behind. Keep moving forward.
*Your Criteria for Happiness is one of the modules/chapters of our Now What?® 90 Day to a New Life Direction book, online course and one on one coaching.