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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Dealing with Redundancy

Losing a job can feel like a bereavement. Depending on the circumstances, it can be as bad as losing a loved one or the end of a key relationship. There can be five main fall outs from job loss: financial limitations, loss of meaning and identity, anxiety about the future, loss of self-esteem (having to tell people that you “don’t have a job,” especially if your self-image is heavily wrapped up in the job you had) and anger. Anger can be aimed at those who took your job away, politicians, the world at large and those who we love – they can be an easy target when the smallest things go wrong. In addition, some people, especially if they have worked for most of their lives or come from an area or family with a strong work-ethic, can feel shame. Shame is such a strong emotion that it can eat away at you and make you unable to move forward.

The fact is that we live in such uncertain times that there are few of us who are entirely sure that our job is safe or that it will be more or less the same in a year as it is now. Things are likely to continue to get worse for a little while before they start to get better. Redundancy is very destabilising not only for the person who loses their job but for those close to them. Even in the strongest, most loving and supportive couple relationship there are bound to be problems. Nearly all relationships go through difficult phases and any weaknesses which were dealt with easily in good times can be harder in a difficult situation. Money and sex are two obvious areas of extra tension - money being directly affected by job loss and sex indirectly – through worry, lack of confidence, anger or a withdrawal of communication.

Acceptance is a key part of dealing with what happened, but it can be hard to get to that stage as you may feel anger or shame. For a while at least, allow negative feelings to bubble up – warning those close that you are not yourself and that it will pass. Then try to move on - redundancy is hardly ever the fault of the person who faces it. If your next door neighbour or best friend lost their job, you wouldn’t be hard on them or blame them would you? Then why blame yourself?

Also allow that roles and duties within the home and family will shift. Partners will have different expectations of the future which can lead to niggles and tension. It can be hard for people – especially some men - to busy themselves with domestic chores they have never thrown themselves at before. But that doesn’t mean that those roles aren’t valuable or won’t bring satisfaction. If the partner who loses their job ends up doing more of what the other has done, it can lead to greater understanding and appreciation and handled carefully that can be growthful for the relationship.

As a counsellor, I can help understand what is happening to your emotions and help you to find some meaning and purpose so that you can move forward.

I’ve put together Ten Top Tips for Dealing with Redundancy

1. Keep cool and as level headed as you can.
2. Talk about it. Don’t bottle up how you are feeling. Friends, family and a counsellor can be helpful outlets.
3. Make a plan and stick to it. In particular, face up to the new financial demands of having less money, otherwise things can get worse very quickly. Financial problems, like any problems, don’t just go away and need to be dealt with wisely and calmly.
4. View the situation as a challenge and not as a problem. This can make you feel energised and positive. Inevitably you will want to look back at times, but don’t get stuck with doing that.
5. Finding a new job should be not only an important task, but also a routine. Finding a job or training up for a new one is a job in itself.
6. Be aware of how your redundancy is affecting your partner and other people who are close to you - see it as a chance for some extra teamwork. Children may pick up valuable skills and attitudes from watching you tackle the situation positively.
7. Stay positive and don’t hide yourself away from the world.
8. Don’t push people away if they want to help or ask how you feel. On the other hand don’t forget to ask them how they are too – it’s ok to be honest if you’re feeling miserable as long as that’s not all you ever talk about.
9. Keep busy and cheerful. Think about your general wellbeing as well as finding a job. This may mean finding time for hobbies so that your enjoyment of life is maintained.
10. Though the situation can hardly ever be described as good in the round, don’t blind yourself to the positive aspects – more time for family, helping around the house, DIY, hobbies, long term dreams, friends etc. If you’re going to be out of work for several months or more then plan to use that time constructively. Remember that time well spent is not just about earning money and that we work to live, not live to work.

If you’ve been given redundancy money then use it wisely. If it is generous, consider treating yourself and your loved ones to a break. But plan the timing of that carefully - give yourself a few weeks after the loss to feel and start to accept as rushing straight off to the sun will mean that you come back to a huge anti-climax, which can add greatly to the destabilising. During time away, the loss may ease emotionally, you will have time to think and get things into perspective and your partner is likely to reassure you. You will probably come back ready for action.

Even so, with all of the positive thinking and planning in the world, the trauma of losing a job can be very painful to deal with. If you repeatedly try your hardest to find a job and cannot then you also have to deal with the feeling of rejection, which again feeds into shame. This can cause a vicious spiral towards depression. Depression is often the result of unexpressed or inadequately expressed anger and shame, and redundancy can be a huge trigger for that. If stress and low-feelings start to overwhelm you, and you have been mainly dealing with things on your own, then think about finding professional help from a counsellor, your GP or career guidance – perhaps all three. I see many people suffering from terrible loss of all kinds and was unemployed myself for two years. I have experienced it, understand what it feels like and am trained to help you.

David is a fully qualified and BACP registered Person Centred Counsellor. If you wish to talk about attachments in your life, you can book a session with him by ringing 07578 100256 or emailing him at

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