If you’re currently not working [i](in transition / between jobs / laid off / out of work – choose your way to describe it), [/i]I’m posting this especially FOR YOU. Because I’m one, too.

One of the concepts that’s frequent here in Layoff Land is that of [b]Grieving[/b]. Most often, I’m told about or shown the “Five Stages of Grief” model developed by Kubler-Ross and her associates. You may know it: the stages are [b]Denial / Anger / Bargaining / Depression / Acceptance[/b]. I’m told we all go through it, though we go through it in different ways and at different speeds.

But it didn’t seem to work for me. I was never really able to make it completely “fit” what I’ve been experiencing. For example: what have I got to bargain about? My job was eliminated. The end. I can’t “bargain” in the way the Kubler-Ross Model describes it (for example, your spouse tells you she’s going to leave you. You try to bargain: [i]“I’ll behave. I’ll stop doing what’s been bothering you. Will you stay?”[/i]).

[b]Please don’t misunderstand [/b]my point: I’m [i]not [/i]criticizing Kubler-Ross or the model. I’m just saying it didn’t feel right for dealing with job loss.

It seems to me that job loss is significantly different in magnitude from the kinds of catastrophes that Kubler-Ross is all about ([i]this is just the end of a job. It's not death, terminal illness or divorce).[/i] I knew I was working through a significant and significant disruption. I was wary of somehow trivializing the "real" grief that people go through by comparing mine to theirs.

So I went to The Google.

My googling pulled out a different model for this process I’m experiencing – and it felt a little truer to me. The author mentioned that the Kubler-Ross process was actually the “stages of reacting to disastrous news” – so it’s core application is to events that haven’t happened yet (“you have cancer and you’re going to die”), not things that have already happened (“you’ve been laid off”).

I found a model that the authors applied to job loss, and specifically to the “post-termination” phase: [b]Numbness / Yearning / Disorganization and Despair / Reorganization of Behavior[/b].

Disbelief. Trying to maintain the same lifestyle. Clinging to routine.

“Homesick” for the old job, people, company

[b]Disorganization and Despair[/b]
Procrastination, haphazard job search efforts, depression

[b]Reorganization of Behavior[/b]
No longer blaming others; thinking future, not past; planning not daydreaming; building a support network; Avoid re-entering previous stage

Not only did this model feel right to me, hell: [i]I could even see my progress[/i] through it during the past six months!

Here’s a link to the article I found:

I’m not shilling for this author – I’m not trying to vouch for it’s academics or anything. It just felt right to me. And during this time of transition, finding things that make sense and feel right – well, that’s pretty important.


I'll finish with this message to my M-T colleagues who are in job transition: it's OK. The Numbness, the Yearning, the Disorganization and Despair will end. They have for me. They will for you. I'm surprised at how long it took me to REALLY get to Reorganization of Behavior - but about two weeks ago, I simply KNEW I was here.

It's a swirl of emotions and yes: it's a process. You go through it at your pace, in your way. The reward at the end is NOT a new job (really!). It's an amazingly peaceful and confident feeling that you're back in control of your life. That you've "come through" something disruptive, unexpected, maybe unplanned for. But here you are: still standing, confident, looking ahead.


jhack's picture


Thanks for posting.

“All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, [i]Anna Karenina[/i]

In much the same way, each of us who has struggled / is struggling with being laid off has struggled in our own way.

Sometimes it's enough to know that you're not alone... and that might be enough to inspire you to reorganize for the future.


Nik's picture

One of my friends compared termination (with or without prejudice) as a divorce. Legally, it has much in common, and the feelings of inadequacy, regret, and anger come right with it.

And, just like a divorce, sometimes the best reaction is to quickly shack up with an easy job to keep your confidence up; and then dump him when you unexpectedly meet your dream job at a hotel bar in Newark.

Oh yeah, and sue the pants off that traitorous corporation that had the nerve to sack you! :lol:

AManagerTool's picture


We all sympathize with you and wish you the best. Thank you for your words of wisdom and strength.

It's coming. Don't settle for shacking up with the easy job unless your finances dictate that you do. Thats how diseased careers are spread! Start hanging out in hotel bars in Newark...LMAO @ NIK :lol:

TomW's picture
Training Badge

[quote="AManagerTool"]Start hanging out in hotel bars in Newark...LMAO @ NIK :lol:[/quote]

Isn't that how we met each other? ;-)

US41's picture

Grieving is more complicated that the simple five step model. As a friend of mine who has done considerable grieving reports, grieving can happen through the stages, backwards through them, or you can just flip in and out of any stage. You can reach acceptance and just fall apart all over again. Human emotions are not systematized. Human emotions are often random and highly unpredictable.

My friend knows a lot about grieving. My friend buried three of his daughters in four years.

That should provide some contrast for those who are unhappy at losing a job.

lazerus's picture

US41 puts the whole thing in perspective, no doubt.

Yet, of all the stressful events that can happen to a family, job loss is right up there. My wife and my children were really angry, as well. Now I have their emotions to contend with in addition to my own. It's not rational, but the feelings EXIST and you have to acknowledge the feelings to get on with your life.

US41's picture

The last response leaves me afraid the last statement I made perhaps overshadowed the impact I was hoping to have with that post. I was hoping to give some feelings of normality to anyone who has lost a job and believes there are five stages of grieving all neat and tidy who might then panic when it doesn't work that way. I would hate to see anyone grieving who feels abnormal or weak because the process doesn't follow a neat path they had read about in Reader's Digest.

* The five stage grieving model really doesn't work that way - it's just a psych 101 framework - not a formalized process

* Don't be surprised if you leave grieving and then suddenly re-enter it at any step in the process

* You may pass through those stages out of order

* You may not pass through any of them. You may find others asking you to grieve or challenging your apparent lack of feeling when simply are not as emotionally dynamic as others.

* You might not want to talk about it. You might want to talk a lot about it. You'll handle it in your way. You are only handling it poorly if you have dissonance between your grieving process and your conscious realization you are grieving.

The last statement was intended to provide perspective. The feelings are real, but you only think they are an avalanche of terrible until you compound your job loss with something truly horrible.

The top three events that precipitate a suicide:
1. Death in the family
2. Divorce
3. A move

Job loss is probably 4 or 5 on that list, though I've never seen the list go past number three.

Job loss can cause #2 and #3 in quick succession, and you're right, take the feelings and the event seriously and give yourself some forgiveness and understanding if you feel horrible.

Don't underestimate the negative impact that moving can have on you. Out of your parents house into an apartment, across town to a house you built, to a new country, to a new city, downgrading from your house to something less expensive as you realize you over-reached and bought too big...

Moving is not a little thing. People literally get depressed and not just a few off themselves because they move from one location to another. Moving is a little spoken about traumatic experience for a human being. I've moved multiple times. Each time, I can see in my life exercise patterns interrupted long-term - hobbies dropped - new hobbies taken up - dramatic changes in my social life - impacts to my career - and periods of depression where I just didn't feel like doing anything.

But perspective helps me through that, so that is all I have to share. I was once very depressed about work (probably had just moved too), and spoke to my grandfather on the phone.

He listened to me and then replied (he was a WWII vet who stormed a beach), "Boy, let me ask you, you got planes dropping bombs on you? You got your knees in ice water running red with your buddy's blood? You got people shooting at you from planes, from pill boxes, from behind rocks? You just see your best friend explode right next to you? Are your ears ringing and you can't hear, and you almost hope you get killed because you are so terrified it literally hurts to breathe? No? So, let me get this straight... you are sitting in an $800 chair clickity clicking on a keyboard making ten times what I ever did in the air conditioning and you think you got problems? Boy, you got problems. You got problems with your perspective."

I had a great week from that point on.

HMac's picture

[quote="US41"]The last response leaves me afraid the last statement I made perhaps overshadowed the impact I was hoping to have with that post. [/quote]

I'll admit - I felt like there was a little "one upsmanship" in the last statement [i]("you want grieving??? I'll give you grieving...").[/i]

But I was sure that wasn't the intent, and that it was about trying to keep things in perspective.

In fact, "Keeping perspective" may be the trickiest part of working through ANY difficulty....


lazerus's picture

I think my perspective is skewed because I have never been out of work before. I don't know what it feels like to die, or have someone close to me die. I have had to move many times, sometimes my choice sometimes not. It's always as disruptive as you say.

I like perspective. A Viet Nam vet once told me "Any day above ground is a good day".

bda1972's picture


Thanks for the post. I lost my job in April and those stages, in that order, pretty much fit me so far. At 35, it was the first time I'd ever lost a job and I was absolutely devastated when it happened. I just now (after almost 4 months!) got to the acceptance stage. If you bet me $10,000 I would have never guessed it would take me more than a month. I guess you never know how you'll react until you're in a situation.

I also agree about the perspective comments. I'm single, no kids and in good health. I've got parents who have already told me I can sell my house and move in with them for as long as I want if my finances get too tight. I bought my house when I was making $25,000 less than when I lost my job so I could technically take a couple of steps backwards in my career and still keep my house. Things could be FAR worse than they are. I'm sure my grandfathers, both WWII vets and one a POW, would laugh in the face of my current situation. As a matter of fact, I know they've both been in my shoes multiple times but with no marketable skills, very little savings and while supporting a family.

There is one good thing to come out of all this mess. Even though I've been listening to MT for a long time, I was not following the advice very well. My resume was not up to date and my network was much weaker than it should have been. I was so sloppy that I actually missed out on a few fantastic opportunities less than 2 weeks before I was let go. I'm in decent financial shape but it could have easily been much better. I can't control whether I lose a job again but I can [i]guarantee[/i] that a) I will be prepared next time and b) I will recover much quicker now that I know what to expect.


jhack's picture

To paraphrase Patti Smith:

"I don't mess much with the past, but I mess plenty with the future..."

We all experience grief/challenges/setbacks/failures/whatever differently. Ultimately, it's about getting back on the proverbial bicycle (perhaps wiser or sadder) and heading on down the road. Not everyone makes it.

Life is struggle, and as long as you keep your focus on the future, you'll (probably) be OK.

Happy trails.


HMac's picture

[quote="bda1972"]If you bet me $10,000 I would have never guessed it would take me more than a month. I guess you never know how you'll react until you're in a situation.[/quote]

I completely agree with you on this. I thought "sure- right problem...I get through everything else easily and quickly..." But I learned that you go through it at the pace you need to go through it.

[quote="bda1972"]I can't control whether I lose a job again but I can [i]guarantee[/i] that a) I will be prepared next time and b) I will recover much quicker now that I know what to expect.[/quote]

A clink of the glass in a toast to you - what great words.

Brian, thanks for the terrific post.