Whether you knew the termination was coming or were caught completely by surprise, there are a wide range of emotions you may feel. Some people feel strong anxiety and anger about the termination or how it was handled. Others may feel a sense of relief, either because it was not a good job fit anyhow or because the process leading up to the termination dragged on.
There is no right or wrong way to feel, but understanding and expressing your emotions in a healthy manner is necessary in helping you move forward. Whether you are devastated or see it as an opportunity for new beginnings, it is still a job loss. Even losing your daily routine or a family of coworkers are parts of the loss. In our culture, people are often identified with career roles. Upon meeting someone new, aren’t you often asked “What do you do?” Not knowing what to say is part of the loss.
There are various theories of loss, but most originate from the work of psychologist, Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and her book, On Death and Dying. Although the original work focused on stages of loss, it is more helpful to look at these as possible areas of emotions that you may move back and forth through. Here are some brief descriptions to help you understand and cope with these emotions.
- Shock – You may have felt this as you were being told the news. This can include the feeling of being numb and not even completely hearing or comprehending the conversation.
- Denial – This includes being unsure that you understood the termination completely, or doing activities that include anything but moving forward on one’s job search.
- Bargaining – This stage can include conversations or an expectation related to your employer changing its mind or calling you back in a different capacity.
- Anger – This can be about the fact of losing your job or how it was handled. Your angry feelings may be toward the company or toward specific individuals at the company. You may even feel anger toward yourself in not anticipating the termination or being more prepared for a job move. Find safe ways to express your anger, such as physical exercise or keeping a journal.
- Anxiety – This is a common emotion associated with concern of financially being able to provide for oneself or one’s family. You may also have anxiety about being able to actually find another job. Taking action is important at this stage, so you don’t become paralyzed with fear.
- Depression – This can occur when the full realization of the loss has set in. Although it is common to have the “blues” sometime after a job loss, if there is chronic or recurrent low energy, loss of appetite or overeating, or disturbed sleep, this level of depression could indicate a need for professional treatment. Taking care of oneself is essential in this stage.
- Testing – This involves trying out options or actions whether exploring a new career field or moving forward on the job search.
- Acceptance – This is the point at which one finds a way to move forward, focusing on the future and not the past, ideally with a sense of hope.
© 2008-2020, Karen Litzinger, Pittsburgh PA. Section from outplacement services Career Transition Workbook. All rights reserved. Permission given to reprint or share only in its entirety with this complete by-line and contact information: Litzinger Career Consulting, www.KarensCareerCoaching.com, [email protected], 412-977-4029. For alternative use permission, please contact the author.