The Grief of Job Loss

Grief- it has long been deemed acceptable after the loss of a loved one, a beloved pet, or the diagnosis of a prolonged illness. But is it acceptable to grieve the loss of a job? Not only is it acceptable, but it is a natural way to process any large-scale change in your life. Human beings grieve all sorts of losses- the loss of an ideal, a relationship, a particular schedule and routine, an identity- all of which are experienced in some form when a person loses a job.

Did you know that psychologists say most people should give themselves a good two years to recover from an emotional trauma such as the loss of a job? And if you were blindsided by the event—you were laid off or fired unexpectedly—it could take longer. 

Some experts call this recovery period an "identity crisis process," and it is perfectly normal to feel depressed, anxious, and distracted during this time. Because it is a form of grief, being aware of the stages and the process can help you understand what is happening and how best to deal with it. 

NOTE: No two experiences are the same and everyone moves through these stages at their own pace and in their own order.

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 "This can't be happening to me..." Denial is often the initial stage (and one that many returns to throughout the grieving process). 


 People spend a large portion of their day at their job, and it can become a core piece of their identity. So, losing that job can not only make you feel like your work was not valued, but it can create a deep sense of betrayal and a feeling that you have been wronged. 

Desperation and Bargaining

 The feeling of desperation after a job loss might cause you to jump right into the job search without a solid action plan. Even worse, it may lead you to take a position that you are not suited for or that does not meet your needs. Use that sense of urgency to power the development of a solid plan for your new job search before jumping into a rush of mass applications. 

Depression and Sadness

 Depression can creep in in multiple places throughout this process and can become paralyzing, which can lead you to question your value and worth. Depression makes networking and applying more difficult. Having a solid plan and someone to hold you accountable to it can help you overcome the effects of depression on your job search. 


 As you begin to accept the pain of the job loss, you can move toward rebuilding and solution-seeking. This is a great opportunity to evaluate what you want out of your work life and start to create habits and boundaries that enable those ideas. Grief is a difficult process but acknowledging the pain and understanding what is happening are key steps in making it through. Develop a support network to both hold you accountable and provide help and compassion while you move through grief. 

Take opportunities to evaluate your life, your work, and the balance between the two and use this chance to shape your world the way you want it. And lastly, create a routine and a plan to move you from job loss to new opportunities, and you will make the most of this time of reflection. 

Learn more about our Pathfinders career transition program which begins with processing the past and present, and then helping you focus on your “what’s next.”