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The job market is shrinking during this current economic downturn. Job loss can be devastating both emotionally as well as financially for the hundreds of workers who are told weekly that their jobs will be terminated.

It is one of life's most traumatic experiences, often causing feelings of anger, anxiety, and hopelessness. How you react to job loss will actually make or break your search for new employment.
The reality of job loss is dealing with practical and emotional losses: practical loss is the loss of income and benefits until employed again. Emotionally, job loss may damage the self-image and worth while fears about the future and the ability to meet financial commitments may be overwhelming. Many worry about how they are viewed by others.

Recovering and rebuilding after job loss

Seeking and finding a job without recognizing, understanding, and addressing emotional consequences may destabilize successful recovery. Recovery after a job loss is thus the ability to work through a challenging time without becoming overcome by circumstances, swept away by emotions, or feeling defeated.

The stages of recovery and rebuilding

Recovery after job loss can be viewed as a series of stages, each with a goal and tasks. It helps people understand their experience as a process that develops and changes over time, and can help them to maintain their self-control even when they may feel anxious and unconfident.

Stage one: Accepting reality and coping

Job loss is often quite shocking. This stage begins with a sense of bafflement as people are totally taken aback by this turn of events. Recognizing what you are feeling is the first step toward relief. The main goal of this stage is to survive this initial phase without doing anything damaging to self, future options, or relationships. It is important to adjust yourself to this new reality, handle instant emotional response, deal with issues of self-esteem and humiliation and simultaneously cope with family issues.

Stage two: Surviving

On entering the second stage, disillusionment begins to fade. People begin to deal with issues of survival and emotional and financial stability. This stage involves laying the foundation upon which people will re-build their lives, and includes emotional, practical, and financial tasks.

Stage three: Formulating a plan

Formulating a plan gives you a systematic and step-by-step guide on what to do and when. The primary goal of this stage is the assessment of needs, skills, and dreams, and primary tasks include taking stock of life, assessing choices, developing plans and re-building self image.

Stage four: Decision making and self renewal

It represents the end of this journey; from basic recovery to self-renewal and self-determination, and involves the active implementation of decisions, accepting personal responsibility, taking emotional risks and re-gaining self confidence.

Rebuilding after job loss is a process that takes place only over time. The amount of time will depend on the personality of the individual, his or her approach to life, resilience, and support system.

Tips for recovering from job loss

Steps to overcome the feelings of hopelessness and desperation that frequently accompany job loss:

Understand the stages of loss

It is quite likely for a worker to go through stages of loss after a layoff. These stages are often similar to those you experience after losing a loved one: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. Recognizing these stages will help you get back on your feet more quickly.

Recover gracefully

As with any loss, there will be a recovery period. Feelings of anger or sadness may last weeks or may be even months. Give yourself time to grieve the loss, and express your feelings in healthy ways so they will pass more quickly. Even though you may be restructuring your life around an imposed career change, it is important to acknowledge your grief.

Keep a diary

Keep a record of how you feel, both good and bad, for at least a month. Confronting your hurt, frustration, and fears may be the first step to healing the hurt. Equally important are remembering successes experienced on the previous job, the good times you had with coworkers, and the characteristics you like most about yourself.

Stay motivated

Keeping grounded is key. Volunteering, formal classes, and exercising at the gym are excellent ways to build structure into your days and may provide that important lead to the next job.

Going to the gym two or three times a week help to deal with a lot of stress. Vigorous exercise reduces lessen the day-to-day irritants. It also helps you relax and become mentally focused.

Develop your roadmap

Develop a vision of where you want to be and compare this to where you are in the present times. This will help you identify the gaps that will provide the foundation of your roadmap. A roadmap helps determine your “best fit” course of action, based on your circumstances and vision. It outlines the strategies that you should use to help you get a new job or help your company through the economic slow down.

Form a temporary routine till your next job

Form a new (temporary) daily routine to follow until you find your next job. Routines help clear the mind, keep productivity high, and promote a feeling of usefulness.

Find support

Form a support group among your friends and family. It is helpful knowing that you are not alone and that the feelings you are having are normal. Being around others is a very important part of the healing process. These individuals may also provide valuable leads on prospective jobs.

Look for a new job 

Get organized by making a list of all available organizations, companies, and agencies within driving distance. Revise your resume and begin knocking on doors, making phone calls, and writing letters of application.

It is always important to remember that dealing with a job loss is not easy; it happens to most and to the best. The key to recovering is recovering with grace and dignity.