Job Loss and Grieving

In 1969 Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published “On Death and Dying”, bringing, for the first time, a mainstream awareness to the human side of terminal illnesses and the like. When she identified her ‘five stages’ of grief’, I’ll bet she had no idea that 40 years later they would become ‘mainstream’ when talking about job loss.
We’ve seen news reports, read articles, listened to others ask if it’s really that bad and wiped a few tears, unfortunately with increasing frequency, over the past few years. Every time a news reporter puts a microphone in someone’s face and asks ‘what is next for you?’ I just cringe! How can they possibly know? None of this information has processed yet! If we were aware of, and educated others, on how Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief can be applied to just about any personal loss, we may have a better understanding and preparedness for such occurrences.
I first learned about Kubler-Ross back in college and this theory has stayed with me. On a personal level, they have given me a better understanding of how I was feeling at the time of loss and whether or not it was ‘normal’. Throughout the years, I’ve leaned on this theory to get through some tough times. Here are the five stages:
1. Denial – Usually the initial response. Temporary in nature. ‘Not me, you must be wrong’.
2. Anger – Strong feelings, albeit misplaced, of rage and envy. Often directed towards anyone/anything who symbolizes what was lost. Spouses/partners who are still working usually take the brunt of the anger.
3. Bargaining – Strong negotiation to somehow postpone or delay said activity. Most ‘negotiations’ are made with a ‘higher power’ in exchange for ‘one more chance’. Often puts into perspective the true value of someone/something compared to other, more materialistic, things.
4. Depression – The beginnings and comprehensions of what just happened and what lies ahead. In situations of job loss, we may distance ourselves from former co-workers and friends as the pain of ‘what we used to have’ is too great. Trying to cheer someone up during this stage robs them of the chance to come to terms with the situation on their own.
5. Acceptance – Fifth and final stage of grief. Understanding and peace with the situation. When relating to death, this is the stage where people have accepted they are dying. They often want to be alone and may seem emotionally detached. In terms of job loss, this stage often brings peace and acceptance, quickly followed by the desire to figure out ‘what’s next’. This is when words of wisdom and help in the job search will be welcome. Not before. You’ll be met with resistance and anger if you offer it too soon.
Things have come a long way since 1969. Some things, fortunately, haven’t changed so much. These stages are just as valid today as they were when Kubler-Ross first put her theory into words. Today, we need to acknowledge that there is a grieving process for any sort of loss. If we don’t , we are doing a great disservice to ourselves or others we know going through it. Take a minute and think about these stages and where one may be. Only then can we truly help ourselves and our neighbors.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top