“When I was laid off, I had an overwhelming feeling of failure. What I had to accept (losing my job) and what I had to understand (that it doesn’t define me) were really hard. I was scared, sad, confused and completely unsure of what would happen.”
Even in the best economic times, many people encounter the experience of losing their job and/or facing financial struggle and economic uncertainty. This difficult reality is multiplied and exacerbated during times of unprecedented global upheaval like what we’ve experienced with the pandemic.
While there are some support systems in place via government and other institutions, the challenges are felt on a very personal and emotional level. We’ve spoken to some people who have suffered job loss and financial hardship and asked them what friends and family have done (or could do) to alleviate some of their stress and pain.
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“Consistent contact is great; in person or phone calls are best. Occasional check-ins are helpful and make you feel good.” —Kent D.
- Losing a job can make you feel cut off from the “regular” world. Hearing from others, even just for a quick chat, restores a sense of connection and can also boost one’s mood in what can be a worrisome time.
“After I was laid off, I got some cards from friends, which are always GREAT, and I even received some premade dinners, which helped a lot.” —Becky B.
- Naturally, we like the idea of sending cards when someone is going through any tough time. But because the emotional toll of losing a job can be very high and finances can be a concern, practical help like setting up a meal train or delivering homemade dinners makes an immediate difference with a personal touch.
“I really wanted the regular meme-sharing, jokes and catch-ups that weren’t all about my job loss. I also appreciated friends continuing to include me in any virtual game nights or ‘regular’ life things that could help distract from this big valley.” —Kent D.
- Job loss or financial difficulty is hard, but it doesn’t have to completely change a person. It’s important to keep them in your circle’s regular activities—it gives them something to take their mind off their troubles for a while and maintain a sense of normalcy.
“We didn’t make too many folks outside our immediate circle aware, but those I did were eager to provide contacts of people they knew and any relevant job leads, which meant more than anything.” —Joel F.
- If you’re aware of opportunities for a person who’s out of work, by all means, feel free to share them. But be careful to do it in a way that doesn’t put too much pressure on them to act. It can take time for someone to get their confidence back up to where they’re ready to try to find a new position.
“Losing a job you love after 8 years is like a death almost. You need to grieve first. When my wife lost her job, I think I initially tried to be positive too early. I immediately started with ‘You’ll find something better. They took you for granted. There are so many more opportunities.’ She wasn’t ready for that yet.” —Joel F.
- Losing one’s job can cause grief, and grieving people need time to process their emotions. While the instinct may be to say that things will get better, that they’ll find a new job, that better days are right around the corner, the truth is that’s not guaranteed and may not feel honest or helpful. It’s OK to simply acknowledge the tough time with empathy: “This is really tough and it sucks and I want to help if I can.”
“It lifted me up to be reminded of my talents, the things I’m good at, the worth I still had. It was encouraging and gave me hope.” —Becky B.
- Losing a job or being in a difficult financial situation can really have an impact on one’s confidence and feelings of self-worth. Reminding someone of their value is always welcome and especially so during a time like this.
“Sometimes I just wanted to talk it out, to vent about it. It’s great if someone offers counsel, but mostly I just wanted to be asked ‘How are you?’ and focus on the here and now. Not stuff down the road.” —Kent D.
- Saying the right things is great, but simply listening is sometimes even better. Let them lead the conversation with how they’re feeling in the moment and provide an empathetic and friendly ear.
“Please, don’t lead with ‘how’s the job hunt’ or ask for a career update. This adds anxiety, because suddenly I have not only let myself and my family down, but now I’m letting down the person asking for the update.” —Kent D.
- It can be tricky to navigate well-intentioned and hopeful interest in a person’s progress through this tough time, so keep in mind the anxiety they already feel and do your best to try not to add to it by asking for updates. It’s likely that if they have any news to share, they’ll share it on their own.