Can You Be Grieving After a Job Loss?

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It’s normal to grieve after the loss of a job. We associate grief with the loss of a loved one, end of a relationship or empty nest syndrome.­­ But people grieve after being laid off or let go from a job, too.

Most people can accept losing their jobs and effectively move on with their lives in a healthy manner. For some, the loss of a job can adversely impact their health. For example, they might feel embarrassed or lose their self-esteem. This is especially true if you’ve been with a company many years. You might lose confidence in yourself. Or you might find you now lack motivation in seeking another job.

Job loss also means a loss of income. Without those regular paychecks, you might worry about paying your bills and supporting your family. That can add to your stress levels immensely. Thus, job loss can lead to sadness, rumination, pain, stress, and even trauma.

This article discusses the signs of grief, the impact of job loss, and what you can do to cope if you've lost your job.

Common Signs of Grief After Job Loss

You might have a variety of reactions after you’re told you’re being let go. Your physical reactions to grief might include sleep challenges, loss of appetite, and weight loss.

You might now have a temporary lack of interest in your normal physical activities. Maybe you no longer want to go for your nightly walk or you’ve canceled meeting your buddies for your regular basketball game these last few weeks.

Cognitive signs that show up include confusion, distress, problems with making decisions, and even an inability to concentrate. Again, it’s understandable that you would experience any or all of these things.

It’s distressing to no longer have your daily routine and to no longer interact the way you used to with your work colleagues.

You might feel one emotion one day, another emotion the next. Here are emotional signs of grief to look for:

  • You may feel sad or depressed
  • You might feel angry
  • You might be in denial
  • You might have difficulty concentrating on daily tasks
  • You may wonder if there's anything you could have done differently

How Do You Know If You’re Grieving Too Long?

Signs of grief are physical, psychological, and emotional. They affect a whole person and might shake up your well-being. While there is no wrong or right way to grieve, grieving too long might be a serious problem.

If you’ve taken time to deal with the news that your boss or Human Resources Director told you, you probably were angry or in denial at first. Usually the feelings of despair fade, however, and you accept the situation. You feel ready to take the next steps.

Some people get stuck in their grief and struggle with their mood and day-to-day functioning.

If you’re obsessively thinking about the loss and still feel intense sadness, you may be experiencing something called complicated grief. There is also now an official diagnosis in the DSM-5 called prolonged grief disorder, where grief symptoms persist beyond a year and adversely affect your life.

In a recent podcast from The Cleveland Clinic,clinical psychologist Regina Josell, PsyD said that after you’ve mourned awhile, if you’re still not showering, taking care of your family and reengaging in daily activities, you might need to seek professional help.

The Effect of Job Loss on Older Workers

Work doesn’t just help us economically, but through work, we forge social relationships and define our status and identity. The psychological and health consequences of job dismissal were explored in two recent studies involving older workers who lost jobs.

The studyinvolving older jobseekers focused on 140 unemployed participants who were 19 to 65 years old. From this total group, 66 people were unemployed and over 45 years of age.

Researchers concluded that the grieving process is more intense and lasts for a longer period of time for older workers compared to younger workers. This held true whether the loss was recent or further in the past.

Older workers were more vulnerable. They viewed work as central in importance to who they were and perceived the job hunt would be more difficult due to lack of social and public support.

In the second recently published study, scientists looked at the factors involved in the development and maintenance of complicated grief after job loss. The study participants included 485 Dutch workers who had lost their job. The average age of study participants was 50. A group of 128 participants also completed questionnaires six months later.

Results showed that participants with higher levels of complicated grief preferred the use of maladaptive coping styles and had negative cognitions in dealing with this job loss. These negative thoughts and beliefs included low self-esteem and a belief in an unjust world.

Having insights into the risk factors for complicated grief helps scientists develop better interventions and methods to treat people with job loss symptoms.

Because maladaptive coping styles and negative beliefs showed a significant correlation with complicated grief, they recommended focusing on reducing these non-productive coping styles and beliefs rather than on bolstering positive coping styles and positive beliefs.

How to Cope After You Lose Your Job

It’s better not to push aside your grief, but feel what you feel. Bottling up or burying your feelings won’t get rid of them. Try to mourn your loss and adjust to any new changes.

Hopefully, you will then get through the messy, painful, and complicated feelings associated with grief. Chances are, over time, you will be ready to choose a better, more adaptive outlook toward moving on from your job loss. Getting there might involve the help of licensed therapists or enlisting the support of family and friends.

While the consequences of job loss may have negatively affected your life, there are productive activities you can choose to do to move forward and heal.

Here are suggested ways that can help you get through this rough time. Enlist one, two, or three of these activities to help you cope after the loss of your job:

A Word From Verywell

Grief is a normal reaction to any form of loss. The goal is to work through your feelings, adjust to your new unemployed situation, and find ways to move forward. It’s important to remember that losing a job at a company may likely be due to circumstances that are beyond your control.

Therefore, try not to personalize the rejection. Try not to demonize yourself and give yourself grace. But if you’re using unhealthy distractions as ways to numb your pain (alcohol, drugs), self-medication is not the solution. Mental health assistance and guidance are available online and in person.

5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. The 5 Stages of Grief.

  2. Shear MK. Grief and mourning gone awry: pathway and course of complicated griefDialogues Clin Neurosci. 2012;14(2):119-128. doi:10.31887/DCNS.2012.14.2/mshear

  3. The Cleveland Clinic. Grief: Strategies for Coping With Loss and Big Life Changes.

  4. Climent-Rodríguez JA, Navarro-Abal Y, López-López MJ, Gómez-Salgado J, García MEA. Grieving for job loss and its relation to the employability of older jobseekers. Front Psychol. 2019;10:366. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00366

  5. van Eersel JHW, Taris TW, Boelen PA. Complicated grief following job loss: Risk factors for its development and maintenance. Scand J Psychol. 2020;61(5):698-706. doi:10.1111/sjop.12650

By Barbara Field
Barbara is a writer and speaker who is passionate about mental health, overall wellness, and women's issues.