How to cope if you’ve lost your job, your business, your hopes and dreams.

When I lost my job I was determined not to give into my emotions. No way was I going to admit that it hurt, or how angry I was to be made redundant after many successful years as a magazine editor. If I just ignored those feelings they wouldn’t get to me, I figured.

I knew how it worked. You walked away, head held high and made such a success of your life that you literally never looked back. Deep down I wanted to go freelance, but to do it on my terms. So it was devastating and humiliating to find myself cast asunder. Finding out that you’re dispensable hurts, even if you know your company is having to make ‘efficiencies’.

But there would be no wallowing nor licking of wounds for me. The day I left, a brief sob on a friend’s nice clean shirt after too many vodkas was as far as it went. Without taking a single day off, I booked myself up for long term freelance cover on a glossy magazine. “This isn’t going to control me” I thought. Like Beyonce I went full “I’m a survivor” and soldiered on. And on and on.

But of course it did get to me – over and over again through the years, because I hadn’t let myself feel what I needed to feel. It was a festering wound that just wouldn’t heal. Over time I became an anxious, insecure mess, doubting the abilities that I’d always relied on. Not letting myself grieve properly took its toll on my mental health and self-esteem. “A lot of people do this when they get made redundant, filling the hole they’ve been thrown into with frantic activity to hold back the pain of loss. But if you do this it just eats away at you,” says Jo Tocher, a holistic loss mentor.

While she specialises in coaching women after baby loss, Jo works with clients through any form of traumatic loss. And, says Jo, if you’ve been through redundancy, seen your sector decimated by the global pandemic or had to close the business that you’ve poured your heart and soul into, the feelings you’re now experiencing are akin to the grief of losing a loved one.

“The seven stages of grief that we go through are the exact same emotions after a death, a baby loss or a relationship break-up – but in a less obvious way. It’s a form of bereavement when we experience the devastating loss of a business or our job, or a radical change in our circumstances. We might not realise we’re going through a grieving process but it’s the same, believe it or not.”

The seven stages start with shock when the body feels paralysed or weak while our brain is working overtime to process events and their implications. Next comes denial, when we can’t quite believe it’s happening and just can’t get it to make any sense. After this comes anger, when we over-react over the smallest of things and may hit out at everyone. Then comes a phase of bargaining – if I hadn’t done or said this, it wouldn’t have happened – and then we feel low both emotionally and physically and can lose our zest for life – depression, the fourth stage.

But gradually we hopefully start to feel more inclined to do things and be around people and work through what has happened, reconciling our thoughts and emotions. Finally we come to the final stage of acceptance and hope, when we look to the future – “What can I do now? What changes do I need to make?”

How far these stages of grief affect you will depend on your personality type and past experiences. Some people shrug it off, whereas others really feel it all very deeply. But it’s important to let yourself grieve, says Jo. “As humans we’re always on to the next thing, thinking ‘Right, how can fight back, how can I fix this?’ But while facing our emotions may feel uncomfortable, the best thing is to sit with the discomfort and just feel them”.

With grief there’s nothing you can do – you just have to work through it. “If you’ve experienced a huge blow, moving forward through it is what matters – not staying stuck in the depression stage forever,” says Jo.

The depression stage can feel overwhelming. Especially as, layered over all of this is another prevalent emotion from the last few months: a sense of feeling disempowered through the loss of our sense of control of our own lives – a basic human need. Feeling disempowered makes us unbalanced and a bit wobbly and resentful – so if you’ve been feeling irrationally angry and irritable you know why.

This means you have to be extra patient with yourself. If you’re grieving over your job, career, business or lifestyle, don’t beat yourself up. “Just think ‘OK this has happened, it’s not what I wanted but it’s out of my control so I’m going to have the wisdom to just sit with it and see how it plays out’. And while it’s hard to see when you’re going through it, I really believe that something good comes out of something bad – there’s always a silver lining,” says Jo. “You’ll look back later and see that you’re glad it happened”. I can vouch for this. There are times when it may feel like you’ll never recover from having your career or job, prospects or business taken away from you. But you totally will, discovering resourcefulness, inventiveness and strength you didn’t know you had. And who knows where that could lead to?

Strategies to release those difficult emotions

Write it out
Journaling is a great way of getting thoughts out of your head and onto paper, freeing up your mind. It’s also good to really tap into how you’re feeling. Know that whatever thoughts and feelings come up, it’s OK to have them. The important thing is to let them pass through, not dwell on them.

Meditation can help clear the thoughts and mind, as can breathing exercises. Breathe into your belly for a slow count of 3.  Hold for 2, slowly release for 6 until all the breath is out, hold for 2.  Repeat 5 times.

Let your emotions out
Cry when and if you need to. Your emotions are better out than in and tears are a healing release. You may find yourself often triggered, in which case just go with it.

Talk it through
Some people don’t want to talk about their feelings and it can be uncomfortable to do so. But it can really help you make sense of things if you’re sharing your emotions with someone you trust.

We hold the pain in our energy, and unless we do something to release it from our body, mind and energy field it’s still going to be there. To release it there are different methods, such as acupuncture, EAM, EFT, Reiki healing and acupressure. Acupressure, EFT (emotional freedom technique) and EAM (energy alignment method) can be done via Zoom.

Ask for help
If the depression bit lasts too long, get some help from your GP. Counselling can help enormously. If waiting lists for counselling on the NHS are too long, see if you can afford to have a few sessions privately. If you are offered antidepressants, in some circumstances these can help to get you through this difficult period of your life.

Words: Marina Gask