“Big Lots to close Canadian Operations including Orillia store”. That was the local headline a few months ago. Loss is part of our journey in the world of work and along with loss, comes grief, whether or not that is what we call it. Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behaviour. Everyone’s grief is unique.

There are many misconceptions on how to “handle” grief that, from my experience, do NOT promote recovery. Here are a few that are out there:

  1. Don’t feel bad.
  2. Replace the loss.
  3. Grieve alone.
  4. Just give it time.
  5. Be strong for others.
  6. Keep busy.

Now, here is some information that I would like to share about grief:

  1. Grief is the normal and a natural reaction to loss of any kind. Some of the feelings are negative – sadness, anger, disappointment. When we lose a job, sometimes others try to tell us how to feel – “don’t feel bad, it was a crappy job”. Yes, it might have been a crappy job, but it was my job and I lost it.
  2. Unpack the negative first. When talking to people about their last job, negative and sometimes very powerful feelings come out about the job, the supervisor and/or the company. No new employer wants to take on a person who has emotional baggage from their last job. You may need to grieve before moving on in order to ensure you make a positive choice rather than a reactive one.
  3. Talk to people. One of the things my job seekers continue to tell me is how much comfort they get from knowing they are not the “only” ones who have lost their jobs. We can gain insight, strength, encouragement and hope from others who have experienced loss and so it is good to connect with others in similar situations.
  4. Time itself does not heal; it is what you do within time that will help you complete the pain caused by loss. I often give the job seekers with whom I work various exercises to assist them to resolve some of their negative feelings around job loss so that they can move forward positively to find, get and keep new employment.
  5. Showing emotion/grief from loss is appropriate. Showing emotion can be really helpful as it gives those around us permission to show emotion as well.  (Note: be careful with this one if we have children.)
  6. Take the time. There are times when we need to feel the pain, feel the loss, feel the relief, feel the fear (how will I live without this job? without this person?) and feel the joy (glad I had that experience) in order to move forward in a healthy way.

Next week’s blog will focus on how grief can impact our ability to work. Until then, feel your feelings, express them and help others deal with you as you do this.

Sarah-Jane VandenBerg, Guest Blogger for Agilec

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