Job Loss and Feeling without a Paddle

What is it to lose a job that you weren’t prepared for not having and worked really hard to secure? It is a sudden break in reality. A shattering of what felt safe and secure. The adaption required to adjust to this new reality, to this life without bearings, is tremendous. A person can feel without a community, without a feeling of efficacy, without meaning, without a paycheck; ostensibly without a paddle. Under these conditions a person needs something to hold onto but, what if that something is also unreachable? If it’s out of touch because we can’t touch one another right now. What do they hold onto when all of this comes crashing in? The couch, their pet, their inner resources, entertainment, the stem of a glass of wine or handle of a beer mug?

If you are this person, you might worry you won’t find something to hold onto to keep from drowning, but you may need to lose your breath a little to discover the paddle or buoy off in the distance. It’s there although you might not see it until you feel safe enough to stop evading your sadness and despair; fall into it and look out into the world with an eye toward survival. When we lose elements of life that we cling to for survival, such as work or love, it is natural to want something to take its place. To develop new habits, lean into old defenses or ways of being, all in an effort to fill the empty spaces. This is loss. There’s no pleasant way to put it or injunction to make it less knowable. A loved one didn’t die but maybe a part of you did, the part of you that spent 80% of your life identified as an employee of a company or cause. 

Today’s unemployment statistics are bleak and seem never-ending. What seems less accessible is an articulation of what to do about these facts other than feel scared. This is not a ‘help is on the way’ moment but it is a ‘help is out there’ moment. When I began writing this I didn’t have a plan for what to say or where to land but as usual, I end up where this writing corner began – a conveyance of non-evasion. Of putting the platitudes on hold and recommending that you find someone to linger with – someone who won’t turn away from you and your pain in the face of loss, someone who won’t betray your thoughts by offering cliches but will stand next to you as you try to map out this arid chaos, dwell with you in the spaces where no else but you has been brave enough to stand, respond to you with human kindness and authenticity as you try to make some sense out of this loss and put the pieces of your life back together.

A pragmatic challenge to the problem of job loss is the loss of insurance benefits. Do not let this deter you from seeking help. Rather, let the significance of this loss guide you toward finding a skilled therapist/psychologist/psychoanalyst who can meet your specific needs, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. Take this part of your journey seriously and put yourself in the care of someone who can do the same. 

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