The Four Tasks of Mourning for Job Loss


Accept the Reality of the Loss

When we experience job loss, there is a sense that it hasn’t happened.  The first task of grieving is to face the reality that the employment with that company is over, that the job is gone and will not return, that to work there again and share those relationships with other co-workers is impossible. Denying the facts of the loss, the meaning of the loss, or the irreversibility of the loss only serves to prolong the grief process.  Though denial and hope for rehire in the company is normal immediately after the loss, this illusion is usually short-lived.

Experience the Pain of Grief

Many people try to avoid the painful feelings by various ways such as “being strong”, moving away, avoiding painful thoughts, “keeping busy”, etc.  There is no adaptive way of avoiding it.  You must allow yourself to experience and express your feelings.  Anger, guilt, loneliness, anxiety, and depression are among the feelings and experiences that are normal during this time. Recall and relate both pleasant and unpleasant memories of the employment you had and the organization and the relationship it provided.  Ask for the support of friends.  Tell them what you need from them, because people often misunderstand the needs of grieving.  The pain will lessen in time and will finally disappear.

Adjust to an Environment Without the Job You Loved

This means different things to different people.  It depends on the former relationship with the organization.  Many who experience job loss resent and/or fear having to develop new skills.  It can be overwhelming to take on revamping resumes and re-evaluating skill sets as you search for new employment.  There may be practical advice you need help with, yet there will be a great sense of pride in being able to master these challenges.  The emotions involved in letting go are painful, but necessary to experience.  By not doing so, you will remain stuck in the grief process and unable to resolve your loss.

Withdraw Emotional Energy and Reinvest it in Other Employment and Relationships

The final task is to affect an emotional withdrawal from your previous employment so that this emotional energy can be used in continuing a productive life.  This does not necessarily mean finding new work immediately.  It does mean re-entering the stream of life without your previous employer and the identity it provided you.  You must rebuild your own ways of satisfying your vocational needs by developing new or changed activities and relationships.  It recognizes that there is other work and another vocation that you are capable of and will enjoy.

Adapted from:  Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy by J. William Worden, PH.D