Your Emotional Guide to Starting Over after Being Laid Off

Your Emotional Guide to Starting Over after Being Laid Off

Layoffs take an emotional toll on employees. Here is how you will likely process the experience using the five stages of grief.

The ongoing layoffs from tech giants, like Meta and Twitter, have sent thousands of employees into limbo, wondering what their future will look like. This resulted in not only a feeling of physical displacement but also emotional turmoil.

Sometimes, you might be expecting a layoff, for instance, when your company has not been doing well consistently, giving you time to prepare. Other times, it comes like the rain on a beautiful sunny day, disrupting your life and sweeping the floor from beneath your feet. You might not see it coming (as was the case with many Twitter employees), but you are going to have to deal with it somehow. Here is what your journey is most likely look like:

1. Denial: Tesla and now Twitter CEO Elon Musk decided to lay off employees to reduce the social media company’s cash burn. He didn’t fire people because they were terrible at their jobs; instead, he did so because he felt that their roles were not adding value to the company. Still, it is difficult not to take such a move personally. That’s the first stage of grief: denial.

You might think, “This cannot be happening to me,” or that the company will reconsider and hire me back. In Musk’s case, it did happen as he asked some employees to return after firing them (it wasn’t revealed whether they did go back). However, that is a rare case. In most cases, employers will not change their minds. Sometimes, the decision had nothing to do with you, but at other times, it might have to do with you…if you catch our drift. 

2. Anger: Picture this: you are sitting at a bar with your friend, venting about how horrible that company and management are, how they mistreated you and how you never liked them anyway. That is the stage of anger. 

You might also direct your anger to people around you. Since layoffs significantly impact your mental health, you might get angry at your partner, parents or friends for no reason. If this happens to you, remember to warn your friends about what you are going through so they do not take things personally. To unleash your frustration healthily, consider engaging in physical activities to release the anger

3. Bargaining: There may come a time when you might consider begging and pleading for your job back. That’s called bargaining. You might pray to a higher power, attempt to manifest it or even engage in superstitious behavior in a bid to attract your job back. You might rush into the job market, trying to get a job without feeling ready for it emotionally. Yet, know that it is not the worst idea to take some downtime from work to clear your thoughts to ensure you’re ready to make any big decisions. 

4. Depression: Being laid off can bring a lot of emotions to the surface. You might experience “impostor syndrome”, feeling like you were a fraud all this while and not good at your job. You might get swallowed up in self-doubt and find yourself kicking your confidence to the curb. It might result in feeling depressed and defeated.

These are all normal and acceptable responses to a job loss. Let yourself grieve, but remember to talk it out with friends, loved ones or a professional therapist, lest you let these feelings engulf you entirely. Remember that most of your negative self-talk is a representation of your insecurities, and that is not always the truth. 

5. Acceptance: Finally, you accept that a job you held for a considerable amount of time and the routine you had with a company is gone. You decide it is time to change your perspective and attitude and get back on the field. This stage might come in waves, even during the previous stages.

Acceptance is about finally moving forward and job hunting with a clear head and a new mindset. There are many routes you can take from here: you can consider starting your own business, changing your field altogether or going back to the chalkboard and getting another degree! Come what may, don’t limit yourself.

Let’s call a spade a spade: getting laid off is traumatic, especially when it comes out of nowhere. It is like an unexpected break-up that makes you question yourself. It hurts your self-esteem and confidence and can further derail you from your path. That is understandable, and there is simply no glossing over it. Remember that if it gets too tough to deal with, seek professional help (e.g. therapy) to process the loss of a job—much like dealing with a heartbreak. And you never know; your true love might be around the corner.   

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Header Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

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