While the period following a job loss is undoubtedly challenging, understanding (and accepting) the stages and feelings associated with this transitional time may enable you to muster up a bit more hope and optimism about your future and ultimately help to expedite the natural grieving and transition process so that you can move on and take hold of new opportunities.
According to the Deems Job Loss Reaction Cycle, many people will experience a roller coaster of emotions and reactions when rebounding from job loss; the stages in the cycle are: shock and disbelief, anger and resentment, denial and bargaining, self-doubt and put-downs, withdrawal and depression, and acceptance and affirmation.
Shock and Disbelief: If you’ve been fired or laid off, it’s highly likely that you’ve experienced feelings of shock and disbelief – a period of time when the situation just doesn’t seem real. For many people, this period will last from a few minutes to a few hours but for others it can linger much longer.
Anger & Resentment: For most, feelings of shock and disbelief are quickly replaced by emotions of anger and resentment. During this time, many people will direct anger at their past employer; however, anger may also be directed at unrelated targets. In some instances, it may be helpful to seek out professional assistance to discuss your feelings and to develop a plan for moving forward.
Denial and Bargaining: While many people understand that a termination or a layoff is non-negotiable, others have difficulty accepting a termination as final. Difficult as it may be, it is important to recognize that your job has ended and begin to move on. Don’t let your job status define you. You define who you are, not your job or a company’s decision.
Self-Doubt and Put-Downs: At some point, most people who lose their job will experience feelings of self-doubt and unrest regarding their role in their termination. This is true even in the case of downsizing which often has little to no bearing on employment performance. Focusing on your accomplishments and achievements will help you to build confidence and encourage your mobility.
Withdrawal and Depression: It’s no wonder that many job seekers experience feelings of withdrawal and depression. By creating and following a well-developed job search plan, many people are able to minimize those feelings and advance forward more quickly. Additionally, self-care, social support, and participation in recreational activities may also help people to overcome this period.
Acceptance and Affirmation: This stage is undoubtedly the most comfortable of all of the stages in the transition cycle! It occurs following acceptance of the fact that you’ve experienced a major job change and are ready to embrace new opportunities. At this stage, people will be able to appreciate their professional value, form a positive outlook about their future, and move on.
While everyone who is laid off or terminated will experience the job loss cycle, the exact process and duration between job loss and acceptance is by no means uniform. Fortunately, understanding the stages associated with job loss can help you to better adjust and prepare to advance towards new opportunities. Normalizing your experience and developing coping strategies for dealing with each of the stages of this cycle will help to achieve acceptance and affirmation more quickly. For many people, seeking out guidance from an Employment Specialist or Counsellor can be very helpful.