thus resulting in life change.
I just realized they apply to this situation, there is a definite “grief” process – when you lose a job, can’t find another, resulting in major changes in the way you think.
What am I talking about?
These are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief:
- bargaining (if only)
Nobody exactly died, not physically anyway, but certainly the old self, employed in the way I was, doing the things I did, is no more. So that really is a kind of death, isn’t it?
How these played out for me:
Denial: Although I did not deny the fact that it happened, that I was laid off, I did likely deny it’s seriousness, its implications. The last full time job layoff for me occurred in November, 2009. I do remember thinking “well, might as well take the holidays off, as no one will be hiring between now and New Year’s, anyway. . .” I also didn’t think it too odd when my resume was not responded to, as in, not responded to at all. . .when that had never happened before. (this time, of course, it’s different: both the economy and the job market)
Anger: I can see this in two areas: 1) intense anger at the non-profit I worked for, which laid off an entire department (3 white gay men and one African-American straight woman, 3 of us over 50, all of us over 45) and the perceived age discrimination there (of course, it didn’t help that the person who laid us all off was herself gay and over 50) as well as the perceived age discrimination as the reason for the above-referenced non-response to any job I applied for.
Bargaining: I can see this most clearly as I looked at my previous jobs and some decisions I made: would I have resigned from that great tech PR job if I knew that the economy was set to implode? Of course, I would not! Why did I take long periods off between work, not even to do freelance? This was coming back to haunt me! Surely, if I’d had a more traditional working career, I’d be snatched up by now. I’d changed emphasis or industry in my 20s, in my 30s, in my 4os, and here it was again, in my 50s. Woulda-coulda-shoulda, over and over and over. And it’s still going over and over and over (these stages are not linear or easily abandoned, it seems!)
Depression: This has also been a long, ongoing slog. Depressed that work life as I knew it was over, depressed at frightening visions of never having an income, or a forced retirement and what that might look like. There were periods of lightness, where there’d be hope of going in a different direction or that there would be some other kind of life, then a return to depression. During this time there were a couple of real deaths in our family, which, of course, didn’t help much (but certainly put the rest of it all in perspective). In retrospect, I do see that much of this was necessary, that long night one must go through to get to that next place. So, finally,
Acceptance: The world has changed, the work world has changed, and I along with it. Now, I don’t even want what I had before, though it’s certainly not available to me if I did. The past four (four plus, now) years have changed me. I hope it’s for the better, for the depth of experience, that makes one a richer man. I am older, more ornery (if that is even possible) and have come to see the advantages of where I find myself along the work/not work/whatever spectrum. With that comes a certain resilience. We’ve (that’s the royal we) all survived thus far, there’s no reason to think it won’t continue, and that it will be an adventure.