Grieving A Job Loss


By Katherine Hanson

I lost my job recently.

I knew it was coming. The market wasn’t there for the company I worked for at a level that could justify my position. It had been a frustrating few months as I began to realize that it was going to take more time to see my efforts pay off. Unfortunately, the “powers that be” needed to restructure our hub to be more efficient in response to what the market was telling us.

I was hoping to get ahead of it somehow by reassigning myself to other roles, or perhaps resign in a month or two with another offer waiting. But the termination of my position came sooner than I had expected.

I had enjoyed the job I was doing, despite the lack of results from my efforts. I enjoyed the people I worked with, and I believed in the services we offer. But – it was not my life’s passion.

It was something that I held loosely from the very beginning. Grateful, yes, to have a job with paid vacation days, a group health insurance policy and a 401(k), but I never assigned the expectations to it of fulfilling and affirming my life. I had other more beautiful passions for that – and my own business to grow as well.

Nevertheless, it still stings.

Accepting failure, or simply even admitting to myself that some results are beyond my control no matter how much I’d like to tell myself otherwise, has always been a struggle for me. As a product of the Title IX generation, you aren’t supposed to lose your job. Failure, as we were taught, isn’t an option. Working harder and more efficiently was the prescribed mantra. If you failed, clearly you weren’t doing one of the two to your fullest capacity. That kind of thinking gets into the bloodstream after a while.

That philosophy, however, doesn’t always apply when you leave the world of youth sports and college campuses. As I’ve grown and matured, I’ve slowly begun to see failure for what it really is – a learning experience meant to carry you further down the path of self-actualization and into your next beginning.

Regardless, suddenly being removed from something you’ve worked very hard at – and put your child into day care for – is still something to be grieved. Which may seem odd, but when the news came, I knew that is something that needed to begin.

Grief is a process that has to have its way with you in order for you to move on with an open heart. I’ve grieved horrible, traumatic losses and things that were the results of terrible events. Yet as I’ve learned, even the small things, even the things you held loosely from the get-go, need to be grieved when you find that they are removed from your life – no matter how abruptly or gradually.

I arrived home after the long drive from my office the day I was let go feeling sad and tired, like I just wanted to crawl into bed and start the whole day over. As I stood in the kitchen to make myself something to eat, I willed myself to think of all the benefits this job had that can’t be itemized on a tax return:

I thought of how all of the time spent driving in my car to meetings had allowed me to discover all that there is to be learned from podcasts. I thought of how in my position it was my job to meet everyone I could within the business community, and I discovered a common theme that most conversations kept coming to: an observation of the spiritual nature of everything we do. I thought of the people I had met who had helped me further down my path of personal growth, some of whom had become my close friends. I thought of all the travel opportunities I took advantage of during my tenure, and the wonderful memories I was able to share with my family. I thought of the challenges, too, and the opportunities they presented.

It was then I realized that within loss lie seeds of creativity. As much as it stings to be let go from your job – whatever the reason – a sweet gift comes with it. The opportunity for change, to take with you what you’ve learned, and to be called into something new that is trying to be born, or the invitation into something bigger, is usually what you find if you go deeper.

I have been fired three times in my life for various reasons (graduating college at the beginning of the Great Recession didn’t help) – and in hindsight, each termination was something that was actually the best thing for me. Because there was something else, something that was waiting to open me up to something more spectacular for my life, that was waiting for me on the other side. Had I not lost those positions and had I bitterly held onto what could have been, those better things never would have happened.

And now so many years later, feeling firmly rooted in my career and my purpose, it is easier for me to understand that there is something more expansive waiting for me behind this shame and disappointment. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t have to worry about the everyday realities like money and how my family is going to have insurance now, but I’m better able to trust my steps forward and watch the universe show up for me in ways I never could have thought possible. And yes, those everyday worries we all have will be taken care of, too.

So if you, too, are mourning a job loss, or perhaps are feeling stuck in your profession, or maybe even feeling like this thing that you’ve worked so hard for isn’t “it,” I’d like to offer a new way of seeing your place in the working world. Rather than giving in to your shame and disappointment, or stubbornly holding on to an idea you used to have about yourself, ask yourself this: Is there something here that is trying to move me forward into something new? Your answer might be the key to unlocking your next right steps.

Or, perhaps you are grieving your own loss in your own way in your own life. Maybe it is something large and significant, or perhaps it is something you held loosely but worked hard at anyway because, well, it matters, too. I hope these words give you some encouragement as you go through your process, and help you to see that maybe in the midst of your grief, disenchantment and confusion, something bigger and more beautiful is waiting for you.

Katherine Hanson is a former business development executive, a freelance writer and the creator/founder of the infant and toddler clothing company, ModaBaby. Katherine is also a licensed Zumba instructor, who uses her practice (which she calls Zumba + Soul) to create a space for her students to experience continual self-healing through joy. Late last year she launched a weekly email newsletter, called Soul Candy, to share with friends and followers what is inspiring and encouraging her each week.