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The Grief of Job Loss Due To the Coronavirus Pandemic

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So it’s gone. Your seemingly secure position at a company where you either worked for years or believed you’d see a lot of career growth is now over. With the largest one-month increase in the U.S. unemployment rate reported in April, maybe you should have seen it coming. On the other hand, why would you have bought that shiny new thing, if you thought you wouldn’t have a job next month?

It doesn’t matter whether you saw it coming or not because it isn’t your fault. Don’t bother with those details; they only serve to beat yourself up. And don’t worry about the winding down or handing over of your duties. Getting that sorted isn’t going to help you sleep at night. Whether your boss had a kind word or even a recommendation, these things don’t help you get back to sleep when you lie awake at 4 a.m. wondering how it came to this, how you could have joined the ranks of the unemployed after all your hard work and dedication. Loyalty, it’s often called. You sacrificed so much of yourself for the security of the job. And now, it’s gone. There’s no getting that time back.

A surprising aspect of job loss is the grieving process, which can be complicated when your former employer doesn’t give you much information about what’s to come. Maybe the company is laying off other employees too. Perhaps they don’t know what the future holds because of the pandemic. Maybe you weren’t even aware of the problems until they failed to make payroll.

You still have financial obligations weighing on you, creating more stress and anxiety. What do you say when people ask you what you do for a living now? It might evoke embarrassment, humiliation and envy. Your ability to cope is put to the test. Losing a job can be a very traumatic experience, and research has shown that how well one copes with this experience can influence the job search. So you try to keep moving forward, not letting your feet touch the ground, to avoid feeling despair.

“What do the people of America want more than anything else? To my mind, they want two things: work, with all the moral and spiritual values that go with it; and with work, a reasonable measure of security–security for themselves and for their wives and children.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt, presidential nomination acceptance speech, 1932.

Losing a job position isn’t just losing an identity. It’s losing that feeling that you’re accomplishing something every day, no matter how trivial. That’s how we stay at jobs that we don’t like for many years without looking for other employment. That satisfaction is enough. There is no discounting the essential feeling of being useful and accomplished. In its absence, people who have struggled with depression may see themselves sliding into a depressed state.

As always, it’s important during this time to reach out. A new study found that social support was one of the most important protections against depression. In the era of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it’s much harder to seek out that support. You may not be able to physically be there with your loved ones, but you can check in with them over text, phone calls or video calls. Let them know how you’re feeling. If you don’t want to go over all your fears and worries since losing your job, you can let them take your mind off of it. Try to find the space in the conversation to relax and breathe. If you can do this, maybe you can also find a laugh.

Besides seeking support from friends and loved ones, consider taking more time to get creative. That could mean anything from gardening to playing an instrument. You might make a habit of writing in a journal or doodling in a sketchbook. Creative expression can help you process your emotions, even the ones you’re not consciously aware of.

People lose jobs every day, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Grieving job loss takes time and might come in waves. You may feel perfectly resolved, you believe you moved on, and the next moment you’re tearful or full of resentment. It can only pass with time. But depression is a serious mental condition that often requires the help of a licensed professional. Telehealth is a solution during the pandemic. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Photo by Mehrpouya H on Unsplash

Originally published: August 26, 2020
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