How to Comfort Someone After They've Lost Their Job
1. It's Traumatic
Losing one's job, and the security of an income, can be very traumatic. In fact, studies have proven that getting fired or retrenched often hits the same stress levels that are caused by bereavement, serious health diagnosis, and divorce. This is important to understand when dealing with somebody who just got shown the door.
Usually, the supportive party doesn't need to be told that it's traumatic. Chances are that they've already experienced job loss in some form. But most supporters are close family, like the husband or wife. This makes it traumatic for the spouse as well. Very often, their partner was the only breadwinner. Even when the other spouse still has a job, the weight of being the sole provider can be crushing. Parents have the additional fear that they might not be able to care for their children.
Shelf your feelings temporarily at the beginning. Getting overly emotional or acting blase is not helpful. When the person is hurt, shocked and afraid, they need a steady shoulder. Logic, practicality and sharing fears can come a little bit later when the person is calmer.
Needless to say, losing one's job is an emotional event. Reactions could swing from one extreme to the other. There might be ranting, tears or withdrawal. A large chunk of people's self-worth is linked with employment and turning into one of the unemployed can cause feelings of anger, shame and disbelief. Listen when they choose to speak, even if it's pure venting. A supportive ear cannot change the situation but it certainly helps to purge the sting - because they know that somebody is finally hearing their side of the story.
Something to do Together
3. Don't Flame The Situation
There will come a time when the supporter can weigh in more constructively. This usually happens after the fired/retrenched individual rises above their inner emotional storm. Once they've cried or talked themselves empty of these feelings, most are ready for active support.
It's easy for a supporter to give in to anger when they know the dismissal of their loved one was unfair. However, even justifiable anger can flame the situation. At the core, this solves nothing. Such displays of "support" only trigger their emotional storm over and over. As difficult as it is, avoid flammable remarks or persistently reinforcing their belief that they were wronged. Yes, they were wronged. Acknowledge this, but never feed the monster. Anger leads to actions and words that one later regrets. Should anyone feel that something needs to be done, go the legal route and calmly discuss your options.
4. Show Care
Relationships aren't perfect. Sometimes, when situations arise with disappointment and pressure, then the blame game begins. In the end, it doesn't matter whether the person was at fault or not. The damage is done. As grating as it is, one must move forward. Making a caring gesture is a powerful way to bond with a partner under any circumstances. Offer a hot beverage or a hug. If you know this person well, then only you know what comforts them. This is a very difficult situation but remember, you needn't be perfect. Very often, the best you can do is just to be there for somebody.
5. Curb Their Wallowing
Some people snap out of the unemployment blues on their own. Others need a little help. Should your friend or spouse need a nudge, just be aware that you're walking a fine line. It's hard not to offend someone, especially when they're wallowing, when you tell them it's time to move on. But move on they must. There are bills to pay and life goes on. You'll need to be sensitive about it, time the moment right and not get angry or frustrated with them. However, the fact remains; they must become proactive again, clear their heads and return to work.
6. Support Their Job Hunting
Great stuff. Your friend or spouse is done spearfishing photos of their boss and is out searching for new opportunities. Unfortunately, the support does not end here. Job hunting can be stressful and frustrating. It's common to face stiff competition for every job opening and sometimes there's not even any work available. They'll need continued support and suggestions during this time. A friendly reminder - supporter's burnout is a real thing. As you bravely go forth and support your loved one, remember to take care of yourself as well. A little spoiling is in order.
© 2019 Jana Louise Smit