Grief related to job loss can be devastating. While it can be similar in many ways to death-related grief, job loss grief has some serious symptoms all its own. Here are some of the symptoms of job loss grief.
A parent's diminished ability to parent. Parents who have lost their job often find it difficult to concentrate of the job of being a parent. They may be afraid that their children, as well as other family members, view them as failures. This feeling can make it particularly difficult for parents to feel adequate as role models or authority figures.
Difficulty adjusting to new family roles and tasks. This can be a problem for other members of the family as well as the person who has suffered job loss. For example, when dad tries to take over some of the duties mom has always done, the kids and mom may have as much trouble adjusting as dad does.
Difficulty remembering the "good times." The tendency is to dwell on bad feelings toward the former employer and the negative aspects of the former job. Happy memories can be pushed back and ignored.
Increased family disputes. Stresses due to the new family structure, changes in the family’s financial situation and the emotional trauma of job loss often result in misunderstandings and arguments. Poor communication often results, which in turn can lead to further tensions.
"Scapegoating" and blaming others. It is often easier to blame others for our problems than to take responsibility for our lives. The majority of job loss due to downsizing has little if anything to do with individual job performance, but feelings of frustration and helplessness over things we cannot control tend to spill over into the areas we can control. Finding fault and placing blame become a way of dealing with life rather than assuming responsibility for what happens.
Stress related physical issues. Although stress can actually be helpful in carefully managed "doses," overwhelming stress can result in medical problems. Research shows that we become more susceptible to viruses, such as colds and flu, when we are under stress. Other physical problems, such as ulcers or high blood pressure, also often accompany stress.
Concerns and disputes about the financial future. Economic uncertainty is a natural outcome of job loss. The family lifestyle often changes, sometimes drastically. This can result in concerns about the family's immediate future as well as long-term plans for the children's education or for retirement. These concerns, coupled with other stressors, often bring about family conflicts.
Concerns about having to move. This is often of greater concern to older children and adolescents than to their parents. If a move is necessary for a new job, the children may feel that their lives are being uprooted unfairly. They may be unable to understand why the move is necessary, especially if they have been sheltered from the realities of the job loss.
Worries about how others perceive unemployed status. Job loss is often accompanied by feelings of fear about how others will react. This fear may be enhanced by the reactions of former coworkers whose jobs were not affected. They may distance themselves from those who have lost their jobs because they simply don't know what to say or how to act. Unfortunately, this reaction is often perceived as rejection.
BJC EAP can help. If you or someone you love is having a hard time coping with job loss, call 314.747.7490 or toll-free 888.505.6444.