Job loss can cause significant symptoms of grief, much like one might expect with the loss of a loved one. After all, we spend most of our waking hours at work. This is where we get much of our social interaction and social support.

Work provides meaning and a sense of identity and self-worth. Work is our source of income and losing that can be a huge stressor. Many people are also invested in their role as breadwinner or provider for the family. The stages of grief include feelings of shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Job loss can also trigger other emotions like anxiety, shame and guilt.

It is crucial to reach out for support when you are navigating through a job loss. Support can take the form of friends and family, spiritual/religious community and practices, a therapist or a support group.

Human beings can be incredibly resilient, and sometimes a job loss is experienced more like a bump in the road, especially if you have good coping skills, a great support network, a financial nest egg, and no other stressors. On the other hand, a job loss can follow a string of life changes and/or stressors that may place you in a more vulnerable position and make you more susceptible to developing depression, especially if you have a history of it.

Symptoms of depression can include feelings of worthlessness, guilt, helplessness or hopelessness, fatigue or chronic lack of energy, irritability, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, not being able to sleep or sleeping too much, social isolation, changes in appetite with weight gain or loss, and suicidal thinking.

A simple measure to gauge the severity of your depressive symptoms is the PHQ9 or the Patient Health Questionnaire. It is easily accessible online and can be a great guide in deciding if you need to reach out for therapy or have a discussion with your medical provider about medication management of symptoms.

A general rule of thumb is if your symptoms are mild to moderate, therapy is recommended. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, therapy in combination with medication management is recommended. Suicidality should never be ignored or minimized. It is often accompanied with constricted thinking so that the person suffering from suicidal thinking sees no way out other than suicide.

If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thinking you should immediately reach out for help. The best options are to call 911, go to a hospital emergency room, or call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

While you are working through your job loss, it may be helpful to stick to a routine. This can help you to maintain a sense of purpose and direction and prevent you from losing momentum. This might also be a good time to revisit what your goals are, what you want out of a career, do you want to refocus or find something that is a better fit for you? If not now, when? See it as an investment in yourself and your future.

Check in with your tribe, the people that know you well and know your strengths so they can pour into you, help you stay motivated and energized and help you plan for your next business venture. It can be hard to ask for help, but sometimes we need it. Know that it is gratifying for others to give and support and so they may get as much, if not more, out of helping you through this tough time, help with your resume or a business connection or whatever the ask may be.

Also put this job loss into the perspective that it deserves. A job or career is just that, it does not define you. You are so much more than your career. Take this time to refocus on the other parts of you, the other areas of your life that brings meaning and fulfills you.

Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, Psy.D., HSPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Bowen Center. You can contact her at Ask.DrLiebetrau@BowenCenter.org.

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