recently let go employee walking out of his office with his things in a box

A Guide to Job Loss Grief and Moving Forward From It

Losing a job isn’t easy. It often comes as a surprise, leaving you to deal with the aftermath. You’re forced to go through the motions of job loss grief, cope with job loss stress and financial stress, and overcome the challenges of a suddenly uncertain future.

You might not connect job loss and unemployment stress with grief. By definition, however, grief is the emotion experienced after any kind of loss, ranging from the loss of a loved one or relationship to the loss of a home or job. Job loss grief is very real.


job seeker worried about his recent job loss while searching for jobs on his laptop


The Job Loss Grief Cycle

Some experts argue that there are five specific stages of grief. These would also apply to job loss grief. These stages include:

  • Denial: You may attempt to deny the shock of job loss.
  • Guilt and pain: You may experience pain and think about what could have been done to prevent the loss.
  • Anger and bargaining: You may act out, blame others for the loss, or make attempts to bargain to keep the job.
  • Depression and reflection: You may feel sad and hopeless about the loss.
  • Acceptance: You eventually accept your new circumstances and prepare to move forward.

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Other experts argue that the evidence doesn’t support the existence of grief stages. Instead, there are components of grief, which include:

  • Separation distress (feelings of sadness, pain, anger, shame)
  • Traumatic stress (shock, disbelief)
  • Guilt
  • Social withdrawal

Regardless of which argument you gravitate toward, at the end of the day, it is understood that everyone goes through certain stages or components of job loss grief.


Coping With Job Loss Stress and Grief

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with job loss and unemployment stress. To help you move through your grief, find ways to take care of yourself that feel right to you. Some ideas to help you do this are outlined below.

Journal and share your job loss: When working through the job loss grief cycle, it can be helpful to journal about it. You might also choose to share your situation with family and friends so they can support you through the process.


two friends talking about job loss at an outdoor cafe


Acknowledge how you feel: Honoring how you feel about your job loss without judgment is an essential part of moving forward.

Focus on what’s next: This can be challenging when you’re grieving. Even if just for a few moments a day, it can be helpful to focus on the positives in your life and the goals you’d like to meet in your next career. Each day, you can add more time to your job search. Eventually, you will land a job that works for you.

Work with a professional: A trained grief therapist or counselor is someone who specializes in helping people move through job loss and unemployment stress. With a professional, it’s sometimes possible to accept your job loss sooner and move forward faster than it would have been had you gone it alone. A therapist or counselor is also trained to help you identify which stage of grief you’re going through and can help you create a strategy to land your next job.

Take care of yourself: When you’re feeling sad, stressed, or depressed, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. Be sure you’re eating right, finding ways to alleviate stress (such as exercise), taking supplements, and reaching out to your community to remain connected instead of isolating yourself.


job seeker taking a break from searching for jobs online to meditate and find a positive attitude


When coping with job loss stress and grief, remember that everyone grieves differently. It’s not a competition. What’s important is to acknowledge that your job loss grief is real so you can work through the job loss grief cycle as quickly as possible. Once you do, you can continue to focus on what’s next in your life – like finding your next great job.

By iHire | January 22, 2020
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