Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The 6 Stages of Non-Wages

Have you heard of the stages of grief, sometimes called the stages of loss or mourning? It is said to be a universal pilgrammage for grieving people; and so it seems to be a healthy thing, to move through these stages, and get "stuff" out of one's system so healing can take place and life can progress. I guess it also makes sense, that when you "lose your job" you might go through something similar to a mourning period. It's not a person that is lost, so I don't want to make as dramatic of a statement as grief, per se, to describe some of the feelings we go through being unemployed. But hey, if the act fits, maybe I should stage it.

According to experts, the five or seven stages of loss tend to range from the initial shock and denial, all the way through anger, bargaining, depression, and usually the experience is said to end at acceptance. We can see how some of these natural responses would be likely in the realm of the recently laid-off worker. For someone who had worked a very long time in a certain business or for a certain employer, I'm sure the effects are harder still to deal with. Many people truly love what they do, and they center a good portion of their life around their job, and spend a lot of time at their company and/or with the people at their company.

However, in the case of the unemployed, we have to be very careful about how long we catch ourselves lingering in some of the stages of grief. Because, unlike mourning the loss of a person, being unemployed isn't really a permanent situation. A job, unlike a person, can be replaced. Maybe not exactly the same job, but for all intents and purposes, one can resurrect one's work life.

So, for example, let's tread gingerly around the depression stage, shall we? If you feel the blues set in, that's understandable, but get some help, pronto, because you need confidence and energy to get out there in order to solve the cause of the depression stage in the first place. Meaning, you need to put your best foot forward to be re-employed. And if you're unemployed long enough to get to the acceptance stage, well... hmmmm. This is a bit perplexing. You must accept the loss of the old job, yes. That's all there is to it, though. Not to be harsh, but the fact is, it's gone. When it comes to employers, we're making room for the new.

I started this blog using the analogy of zombies and the scariness of being re-animated once bitten. You know, I gotta admit, zombieland has almost happened to me here over the last couple of weeks. The old fleece robe I banished two months ago has re-appeared as of late, sometimes remaining on my body until mid-afternoon. Loaded with cat hair. I noticed this as I sat here by the computer recently.

Actually, "noticed" is rather gentle. I kind of panicked. Because, I mean, I know I've gone mousy with my blonde, but really, has joblessness turned me this gray, this fast? Plus how much hair am I losing now? Turns out the "good news" is that it was gray cat hair all over my robe, not mine, in bad lighting, which made it so I couldn't tell for a minute there. Yet, I didn't really...get up. You know, to look closer. Until later. When I got food.

Eww. So, fortunately for me, I'm managing my stages fairly quickly. Like that Lazy/Crazy Stage I just passed out of. I washed that hair right out of my robe, and that grey right out of my day, and by that afternoon I had been called for a really great job interview.  Funny how that works. Making room for the new.

Here's how I've found my Six Stages of Unemployment to be--all bearable, very natural, and quite usable for strengthening and self-improvement. Remember, we're kicking ass and finding inner peace this year. That's not a stage, it's a promise!

Stage 1: Chin Up I was optimistic and had a lot of energy to make the most of things. I set out to be a model of how to be laid off and still be okay...better than okay, actually: to thrive.

Stage 2: Sad I missed people I worked with, even though I knew them less than a year--I missed the idea of knowing them longer. One gal just got married and she sent pics. I cried over her happiness and wished we worked together during this, since we were there for her engagement, etc.

Stage 3: Settled I felt I should enjoy this time and maximize the heck out of it, undertaking many projects, being domestic, working on writing a novel, reading, getting taxes done, lunch with friends and family, cooking more and being more present with the home life and personal goals. Good.

Stage 4: Cranky I began to have my nose out of joint a little, with the low response to my resume submissions. Why are they not calling me back for interviews? Don't they realize/I'm doing every thing right? Increasingly hurt inside and irritated outside that I'm hardly being given a chance.

Stage 5: Lazy/Crazy Onset of zombieland syndrome; hairy robe sightings (went out to mailbox in said robe one afternoon), online job search efforts less frequent aka "not worth it," daily plan to do yoga and work on novel and update this blog consistently ignored. Greek yogurt spoiling in fridge.

Stage 6: Nervous ... but Sane. This is the honest stage, where I come back from the brink of zombieland to tell you the truth. I haven't been unemployed long enough to feel desperate, but I can see how that could become Stage 7. I also don't have small children, or elderly parents I must support, and my husband still has his job and insurance. But I need to work, plain and simple. I need wages. We have obligations we must meet and goals we feel strongly about, as well. And there's a guilty feeling in all this, too, even though I know it's not "my fault" my company laid me off.

So, yes, I'm grateful we have family and a home to help us through when we need it, if it comes to that. I've said it before: I'm a lucky jobless person. I have enough for food, a computer, electricity, etc. However, I'm still nervous. I'm owning this stage. Just know this: I'm not letting this stage own me!


  1. You'll get through this, and come out better off on the other side!

    Did you have that interview yet?

    1. I did, Arlene, and it went well. Loved the company, the position, and the people. But they had a terrific response to their posting, so there were many interviews to follow mine. No matter what happens (I should hear this week), I'm the better for the interview. It reinforced that yes, there are great jobs out there for me. Plus, I believe the right match will come around if I stay positive and stay in the game. "It's hard to beat someone who never gives up." --Babe Ruth