It just happened! They called you in and had “the talk.” Or maybe, you called them in and initiated “the talk.” Whether you were fired, retired or you just plain quit, you find yourself without a job.
At the same time, you find yourself without a title, colleagues, clients, a schedule, responsibilities and more. These are huge changes and with every change in life, whether it was expected, unforeseen, welcomed or dreaded, you lose things that are important to you.
Every loss brings up emotions. You might have thought that you were ready for the change, but when it happens, feelings of sadness, fear, anger or perhaps jubilation bubble up inside you. You can’t stop these emotions from being there. They are normal responses to loss, and they happen to everyone to some degree.
What you are feeling and the intensity of those feelings will be unique to you and your specific circumstances. Many things make the difference, such as how much of your identity was invested in your job, how sensitive a person you are, how financially secure you are, whether or not you expected and planned for this change, whether you were treated fairly, how burned-out you were, how much you loved your work … or not, whether you left important responsibilities unfinished, etc., etc. Each of these factors have an effect, and even though you can’t will your feelings to go away, you can control how you deal with them. How and to whom you express your emotions can have a significant effect on your path forward.
When you leave a job, there are many practicalities and legalities that need attention, and you might have to reign-in your honest feelings to exit professionally. Do what’s needed vis-à-vis your employer, colleagues and clients as dispassionately as possible. Express your emotions with people who will not be involved in your next career opportunity.
The first thing you need to do in dealing with your emotions is to acknowledge what you’ve lost. Make a list that includes everything from your paycheck to your daily chats with your assistant or teammates. Do this in small steps and only when you’re ready. You want to heal your heart, not break it.
As you identify each thing that you will miss, allow yourself to be sad … or numb, confused, frustrated, angry, relieved, happy or all of the above. Talk to someone who will simply listen and not try to fix things for you or move you forward too quickly. Talk it out … this is the number one healing agent. It might also help to cry, shout, write, run, lift weights, do yoga, cook, dig, plant, build or bash things apart. Do whatever works for you in order to express your feelings outwardly.
In the aftermath of a life-changing event, you will probably need a lot more time than you think to come back to equilibrium. The process will be unpredictable and recursive. Keep at it because it’s crucial to honor your emotions and give them their due. It will be much easier to form a new identity and set new goals once your emotions have softened.
Most importantly, during this time of transition take extra special care of yourself. Only you know what that means for you. This is a time to be self-centred. Do whatever life-giving, soul-restoring things you need to do until glimmers of hope and optimism return. They will come. Be kind to yourself in the meantime.
Marge is the author of ‘It’s Your Move’ now in its fourth printing from Harper Collins.