On Death and Dying – Tripping Along the Five Stages of Grief

June 1st, 2010 by jwjobblogwp Leave a reply »

It’s been said losing your job is akin to a death in the family. Well, if that’s true, I hit the trifecta in 2009.  My father passed away in April, I lost my job in July, and my mother died in November.  Is it any wonder I was happy to see 2009 go?

It may appear odd to start a blog with the subject of death – after all, wouldn’t it be more fitting way to end a blog?  But if losing your job is like a death, then we start there.  And the end?  Well, the end of course is when our heroic blogger attains the holy grail (i.e. the job) and, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, reigns victorious in the new land of the perfect workplace.  I’m sure the holy grail is out there, I just haven’t attained it… yet

My name is Joanna Wolfe and I am one of the many IT professionals out of work in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina known as “the Triangle”.

For 20 years the Triangle has been awarded accolades like the “best place to live” or “best place to work”; it was once rumored to have highest concentration of Ph.D.s per capita.  Unfortunately, its current achievement is for one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, only recently dipping below ten percent.

But I digress… back to death, dying, and rebirth.

I learned a lot about grief this past year.  After my parents died, I found myself tearing up at the most inopportune times.  My grief was overwhelming.  I was convinced that something must be wrong – I was still feeling heart-wrenching pain six – eight – ten months later.  After all, when I was working bereavement leave was only three days.  I should be over it by now.  Shouldn’t I?

Not necessarily.  It takes time to heal.  It doesn’t happen in a three day period; and getting over being laid off took more than three days as well.

If losing one’s job is like a death in the family, then we all need to go through our stages of grief – you know the ones:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Yeah, those ones.

If losing a job is like losing a member of the family, should any of us be surprised we are still feeling pain six – eight – ten months into being unemployed?  Can I see a show of hands?

Go ahead… raise your hand… you know who you are.


Okay, well, I’ll be the first to wave mine.  I’ve been there.

When I was laid off I was convinced that I’d have no trouble getting another job.  After all, I had applicable experience, certifications, skills and knowledge – all current.  Surely, I would have my next position before my severance period ended.  Never mind I hadn’t written a resume in three years.  Never mind unemployment was over ten percent or I’d never submitted an online application.

I was certain that an HR manager would take one look at my resume, and recognize my stellar talents.  They would find me perfect for any number magnificent career opportunities they were looking to fill – all with great benefits, and making $10k more than my last job.  Yes, they’d be on the phone with me before the close of business!

Talk about Denial.

Of course, this was before I found out that many companies don’t look even look at resumes.  Instead, they merely scan their database for key words relating to the job requisition.  Only then are resumes reviewed to see if they fit the open position.

Well, a healthy dose of reality makes Denial pass fairly quickly, allowing us to usher in the next stage – Anger.

Why me? It’s not fair!

Like I’m the only one going through this?  Please!  There are an estimated 14,000 IT people looking for work in the Triangle.  I’m not unique.

Okay, you manage to get past the anger or perhaps not.  A lot of folks that I’ve encountered seem to be stalled at this step.  And why not?  It’s easy to be mad.  What’s happened is a blow to your ego, your confidence, your identity.  Why not have a little “me” time and lash out?  Well, it probably is cathartic to vent, but at some point you have to let it go.

Letting go of your Anger isn’t easy, but you have to move on.  So you start to make some stupid Bargains in your mind – I’ll fill out more applications, go to the gym more often, clean the house, go through that pile of papers… If I can keep my promises, then good Karma will surely come my way.

But who are you Bargaining with? It’s not like the Human Resource staff are there with clipboards ticking off each completed task; the hiring manager doesn’t see you finally cleaning out the garage.

Bargaining doesn’t get you anywhere and you devolve down to probably your lowest low.  You sleep more, exercise less, apply for jobs that you know you won’t get, and yeah, you don’t get them.  You convince yourself you’ll never get hired… and about this time, you get a letter from the ESC telling you your unemployment is running out.  Can it get any worse?  Yeah, probably.

Well, if it isn’t working, guess what?  The only thing to do is change.  And like the proverbial saying,  ‘the only person who can change you, is you’.

My favorite light bulb joke is the one about “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?” The answer? “One, but he really has to want to change.” It’s time to cut bait, get off the pot, change the light bulb.  The only way to move on is to Accept the hand you’ve been dealt and play it.

Like losing my parents, grief over my job didn’t go away overnight.  But I got there, and you will too.

Now it’s your turn… where are you in your grieving process?  Have you reached Acceptance yet? And if not, what are you doing to move yourself along in the process?



  1. Srini says:

    I am really sorry to hear your loved ones death last year. I am pretty sure your blog and your knowledge in this area is going to help lot of job seekers. Good luck and congratulations on your new blog!

  2. Nice post. I like your blog.

  3. Karen Womack says:

    Love your blog (heard about it at TAFU today)! Don’t forget those of us that overdo things so much that we “repeat” steps!! Thanks for your hard work here!!

  4. Beth Patrick says:

    Hi Joanna,
    I am so sorry to hear that you lost your parents, and so close together, and then the job on top of it all – SO MUCH to process. The loss of my Dad in summer 2008 was profound. Thankfully, I had some time before the “surplus” action in 2010. I was so buried in work up to my eyeballs, that the word “surplus” would NOT compute in my brain.(denial i guess.) I appreciate your insights about grieving the loss of the job – as it is so much more than a mere job. Thank you for not being dismissive of the difficulties. Also, I am really grateful for your imagination that makes me laugh out loud (from the familiarity of what you say). I expect that reading your blog, talking to others who are “there”, and improving my skills, will be an active support and comfort. Acceptance is where I want to be now, but honestly, am struggling to reach. I need the reminders that I am not unique in this or that vocation isn’t the source of my identity. Thank you for your blog, I like it.

Leave a Reply