Since I shared my husband’s painful job loss, I’ve received many emails and other private messages from people who have also experienced difficult endings in their employment. Five, six, ten years or more later, some have never felt free to share their feelings of betrayal and loss. Some have changed churches or denominations, or left ministry all together. Some have been close to suicide and still struggle with depression and anxiety.
At the same time, some also report that God surprised them with something even better–time to reflect on their true purpose in life, relocation to a different setting, a renewed sense of trust in God, sometimes even a new and higher paying job. They didn’t exactly “get over” their painful termination–the old pain can and does flare up, but for the most part it’s simply become a part of their past, part of who they are today, and no longer a defining event or preoccupation.
So how do people manage to grow beyond a painful job termination?
Here’s the advice that I’ve collected so far:
Look to those who love you, and hold on to them.
The loss of a job may seem devastating, but you are much more than your paid employment. You have always been and always will be more than your work. So take refuge in the love of your family and friends. Know that you are a beloved child of God, of incomparable worth and honour.
Your body was made to move, so don’t give in to inertia. Go for a run. Use a punching bag. Work up a sweat, and work out your anger and other hard feelings.
Allow yourself to vent.
Tell your troubles to God. Write out your heartbreak and then burn the pages. Cry. Talk to a friend in confidence. Read individual psalms of lament or imprecatory psalms that call down judgement.
Assess your situation.
Consider all aspects–finances, feelings, mental, physical, and spiritual well-being, career prospects, job satisfaction, work environment, ethics, legalities, stress. Consult trusted friends who can pray with you. Get professional financial and legal advice, and don’t let yourself be rushed into any decisions.
Seek out other avenues for your creativity.
Whether you’ve been served working notice or have been terminated on the spot, allow yourself time to explore new projects. Have you always wanted to write? Play a musical instrument? Be involved in your community? As Sandeep Jain argues in a recent article, what you do with your after-work hours between 6 p.m. and midnight can be life changing.
Find things that feed your spirit.
Morning coffee on the deck outside. An evening concert. A walk by the ocean. A long bike ride. Fresh cut flowers. A favourite book. Think about your own needs for a change instead of the needs of your organization. Be gentle with yourself.
Accept offers of help, and look for the good.
Cherish every card, every email of support, every word of encouragement. Even if they’re far too cheerful for your mood, appreciate the thoughtfulness and know that they’re well meant. If you don’t have the energy to respond right away, then take a raincheck on that invitation to coffee for a later time.
Work for positive change.
Involuntary terminations are so stressful that you may not want to return to your old job even if you could, but it may be possible to work for change on behalf of others. What needs to change, and who is responsible? What outside resources can be brought to bear on the situation?
Realize that for all of your efforts, change may not be forthcoming.
As the owner of a small business, my father used to say, “You can’t get blood out of a stone.” That’s why he would sometimes write off a bad debt–because the debtor didn’t have the ability to pay. In a similar way, sometimes people just can’t give you the satisfaction you’re looking for, whether from lack of compassion, character, or creativity, fear of legal implications, or other reasons. You can’t get blood out of a stone, and it’s not your responsibility. Sometimes you just need to let things be.
Know that there is healing.
Have a sense of humour. Get a good night’s sleep. Pray. Look for God’s open door or window or tunnel into the sunlight. Walk with Jesus, and be guided by the Holy Spirit.
I appreciate all of the helpful comments that I’ve received so far on how to deal with a painful job loss. What’s missing from this list? Do you have something to add that might help? Please scroll down to share this article or leave a reply. Due to the sensitive nature of employment matters, all comments will be moderated before appearing on this site.
Editorial note: Three weeks after this article appeared, the managing editor of Canadian Mennonite asked for permission to reprint an edited version as a sidebar for a feature story, When Your Services are No Longer Required. Their edited version appears as Advice for Those ‘No Longer Required’, and I then posted a follow-up article, Is There a Better Way to Terminate an Employee?