Skip to Main Content
(203) 255-4150

Podcast: Job Loss, Grief, and Professional Identity

image for Podcast: Job Loss, Grief, and Professional Identity

In this episode of the Employee Survival Guide Mark tackles job loss, grief, and professional identity.   He realized after so many years counseling clients, he had never written about job loss and the grieving process.   Mark not only provides the steps for healthy grieving a job loss, but he also provides examples from former clients.   Job loss and grief of losing your job must be better understood and talked about more openly.   You will get that insight here.

Here are the links to the Sources used in this episode:

Contact Us

The content of this website is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice nor create an attorney-client relationship.   Carey & Associates, P.C. makes no warranty, express or implied, regarding the accuracy of the information contained on this website or to any website to which it is linked to.

If you enjoyed this episode of the Employee Survival Guide please like us on  Facebook,  Twitter  and  LinkedIn. We would really appreciate if you could leave a review of this podcast on your favorite podcast player such as  Apple Podcasts. Leaving a review will inform other listeners you found the content on this podcast is important.

For more information, please contact  Carey & Associates, P.C.  at 203-255-4150,



Hey, it’s mark here and welcome to the next edition of the Employee Survival Guide where I tell you as always, what your employer does definitely not want you to know about and a lot more. Hey, it’s Mark and welcome back. Today we’re talking about job loss, grief and professional identity. There is little to no information about the personal toll job loss takes on employees who are fired or laid off. I often write about severance negotiation and skip over this topic until now. The irony here is that as an employment attorney, I deal with the client job loss and every case I have although I’m not a licensed therapist, I do spend an enormous amount of time counseling clients through the job loss grieving process. As a society, we treat job loss and grieving job loss is a taboo subject. terminated employees are just expected to get over it and move on to the next gig. There is a great deal of shame in our LinkedIn workforce, and people are programmed to only reflect strength and positive attitudes. Your professional identity. If I met you on a street, you would probably tell me about yourself starting with what you do for employment. Most people start random conversations this way to break the ice. I would expect you to say you’ve been in the same career for quite some time. But I’ve changed jobs as the economy ebbed and flowed over the years. According to one source, quote, employment is a key element in life that goes beyond basic psychological, social, and economic needs. Employment not only results in earning an income, it also imposes time structure during the day implies regularly shared experiences and contacts with people outside the family. It links individuals to goals and purposes that transcend their own and defines aspects of personal status and identity and enforces activity and quote, no one is immune from the negative hit. The ego takes when the job loss occurs. Years ago, I was working with a female president of a subsidiary to a well known publicly traded company. I had negotiated the employment agreement that got her there and several years later, she came to me because the company had decided they had to move in a different direction. A common explanation given to many of my clients. I remember the phone call with a executive today. I guess clients leave impressions on me. The call started out normal. But I could sense undertones of sadness, which came in waves during the call and eventually overwhelm my client. She abruptly burst into tears and commenced five to 10 minutes of sobbing on the phone. At first, this was quite awkward because it was unexpected. We have been discussing the noncompete burden her incentive compensation agreement. And what would happen if she went to work for a competitor that her restricted stock would be forfeited. I paused and commenced listening to this woman sob uncontrollably. But I all realized all she wanted was to be listened to. I guess most people just want to be listened to during this critical period right after they received the notice of termination. But what struck me about this conversation was the comments the woman made about herself, and how this job was her complete identity and that she worked her ass off to get to the C suite over a long career. She was blown away to see it all ripped away from her in an instant. And she remarked she did not know what she was going to do as she believed her career was over. More specifically, her identity as a high powered executive was over. Job loss and grief. Do you feel any pain when you lost a job? Did you get angry about losing the coveted position you work so hard for? Do you blame anyone? Or did you accept personal responsibility for being terminated? Maybe the termination was out of your control altogether. According to one source, quote, The grief process encompasses a wide array of emotions cognitions and behaviors. Part of a healthy grief trajectory are high levels of emotional distress and intense reactions of grief, which persists for only a brief period after the job loss while a person remains capable of to function and all aspects of one’s daily life and quote. Here are the stages of job loss grieving process. Number one, according to this one source, quote, initial shock. In some cases, terminations come out of the blue. In other situations, there may have been some warning. In either case, there can be shock. When the message is received, that you no longer have a job, it may take some time to absorb the reality of the news. Number two, anger, you may feel anger towards your employer, towards yourself, and even towards your family. Such thoughts and feelings are normal and a normal part of the grieving process. But it’s important not to get stuck in this stage and to move forward. Number three resistance sometimes you may find yourself having difficulty fully accepting the reality of the situation of the job loss. Number four, sadness. It is normal to experience feelings of sadness and to want to withdraw emotionally after a job loss. However, if your job search goes on a long time or you have predisposing factors, you may become vulnerable to clinical depression. Getting professional support is a critical is critical as depression can interfere with your energy and effectiveness in finding a job. And number five, acceptance. Finally, you will come to accept what has happened. You don’t have to like it, and you’ll just move on and the personal impact of job loss. According to one source, quote, dismissal from work belongs to the top five most stressful life events. Dealing with involuntary job loss mostly involves a confrontation with the secondary losses like financial security, status, social contacts, structure, identity, and sense of self. Although one might argue that involuntary job loss is a psychological trauma that causes post traumatic stress like symptoms, for example, anxiety, irritability, hyper vigilance, vigilance, or depression like symptoms such as dysphoria, worthlessness and blaming oneself. we conceptualize job loss that way that may yield typical symptoms of grief, including separation distress, yearning for what is loss, a sense of bitterness, or numbness in difficulties to accept the loss and its implications. And quote, the bottom line in any job loss is a sudden loss of professional and personal identity. As an employment attorney, I counsel job loss every day among my clients, and I accept as a normal part of my professional life. I’m the person you talk to, to explain why you were fired. Whether you had anything to do with it, your shame, your guilt, your victimization, from discrimination, and a host of complicated personal questions that just run real deep for many people. Grieving the job, the grieving the loss of a job for some employees can be very difficult, and often compared to grieving the loss of a loved one. Job loss can lead to long term mental crisis. Grief from losing a job can turn into a long term mental health crisis. I remember working with a client many years ago, who had a long career in the sales in the sales and community computer industry. He was in his mid 40s, divorced and had a young son he adored and look forward to spending time with him during his parenting turns with his ex wife. The guy was quite personable and sales seemed like a natural fit for him. He also liked to take diving excursions with sharks in cages all around the world to story. However, life somehow just did not seem fair to this fellow after his employment termination. And several years later, I came across his name in an article in a national newspaper, where he had ingested some form of liquid obtained from the dark web and essentially committed suicide in a mirrored car in the heat of summer. No one found him for some time until the smell became unimaginable. He was wearing a business suit when the emergency personnel opened the door. Managing the stress of job loss according to One Source and I’ll quote this, I found this helpful steps for you. Number one, give yourself time to adjust. Grief is a process. Number two, keep open communications with others significant in your life. Accept support from those who care about you. They may also be a source of job information. Number three spouses, partners and children are also affected by your job loss. Explain the economic forces that lead to the job loss. Reassure children that the family will work together to get through this time. Number four, make a job seeking plan. Greatest strategy and consider the search as your current job. And I tell people to do this every day to their requires planning energy and daily attention. Number five, update your resume. Number six, use community and networking resources available to you. Number seven, practice how you will interview and answer questions about the reason for changing jobs. That’s an important one. I usually tell clients to say that you’ve made a personal decision move in different directions something that’s neutral, something that you can’t decipher something they can’t check on. Number eight, practice good self care. sleep, exercise, relaxation, good nutrition are all important are more important than ever, during the stress of unemployment. Use the extra time to set up that exercise program you never had time for it when you were working so hard. Avoid the use of drugs and alcohol to deal with stress. That’s cannot be understated, folks. That’s an important one. Take scheduled breaks from your job search and allow time for fun. Also very important. You need to be in good emotional shape to do your best in job interviews. Number nine, get professional help when needed. If you find yourself being tearful, anxious, sad heritable, having trouble with sleep too much or unable to sleep, or unable to motivate yourself, you may consider getting help for depression from a mental health professional, and quote, You are not your job. So many people get sucked into the false belief that their jobs are who they are as a person and then get completely derailed when they lose their implement. I remember recently working with a male executive who suffered from throat cancer and eventually lost his voice box. He had a synthetic device inserted in his windpipe to facilitate his communication. But his original voice was lost forever. The client was a salt of the earth kind of guy and extremely well liked. He had been a manager and later an executive in the same industry for the better part of his whole career. He came to me when the employer began to interfering with his position and moved him around the company and eventually demoted him back to the same city where when he started with a company to some 20 years ago, I handle a matter put the client onto disability benefits and obtain a very sizable severance package from his employer. I call this the hat trick and employment law. The employer did not like the fact that their one star executive can no longer speak in his original voice and had to use a mechanical voice device when speaking with the company clients. If you were in the executive shoes, you may have thought the world was ending for the for his career and his personal identity was over. This client was different. And he taught me a lesson a valuable lesson about job loss. After losing his voice box to cancer, after losing his finances from being fired, and after losing the management position he held, you would have thought the client would crater and implode into depression and lose the will to live. But this client was different. And his resilience to form a new life left a profound impression on me that your job is not who you are. Your identity is not derived from what you do for work. Your identity is entirely different and separate. Many clients I’ve dealt with just cannot separate their work identity and their personal sense of self. No one really talks about this issue because people fear it as a sign of weakness to even discuss it. Job loss and the loss of personal self is an enormous issue for many people, but it does not have to be unforeseen positive results from job loss. Losing Your job can also become an unforeseen positive transformation. And I have seen clients go over the years, clients over the years, just pivot successfully without losing a sense of self identity. Many clients do not buy into the idea that their job is who they are. These clients transition between jobs without falling apart, and making huge leaps forward in a way, thought impossible. Before the termination. one door closes, another opens, I have to say the most clients I’ve worked with, actually find better paying and more personally satisfying jobs after being terminated or laid off. I probably just topic because I felt it’s not been talked about. And it dawned on me after 26 years of doing employment law that why haven’t I ever talked about it. But hopefully, you found these thoughts and comments and processes helpful for you. And you can benefit from them. Maybe you can start a conversation with people close to you that you’re going through something like this right now. And it’s now February, middle of February of 2023. We’re experiencing lots of layoffs, especially in the tech society, but sector but across many industries, and we’re trying to decipher whether we’re going into recession or not. But maybe we can do something different and talk about job loss and grieving jobs in a way that’s well, emotionally healthy, in a way that we can feel we can talk about job loss, without the shame and guilt of it, and that we’re not perfect. And, you know, maybe it’s a new, a new change. So I hope you thought this was an important topic for you. And please share it if you like. As always I do try to hit the hard topics like this, because I just see them, I see what my clients are going through. So until next time be Well, thank you. If you’d like the employees who have a God, I’d really encourage you to leave a review. We try really hard to produce information to you that’s informative, that’s timely that you can actually use and solve problems on your own and at your employment. So if you like to leave a review anywhere you listen to our podcast, please do so. And leave five stars because anything less than five is really not as good, right? I’ll keep it up. I’ll keep the standards up. I’ll keep the information flowing out you. If you’d like to send me an email and ask me a question. I’ll actually review it and post it on there. You can send it to mcarey at That’s