Given so much of our lives is spent working, it’s no surprise that losing a job can be a huge blow, and a shock to the system. Here, we share ways you can be there when someone you care for is going through this difficult transition
Whether a restructure at work has led to redundancy, someone is being let go after their probation period, or a contract has come to an end, facing job loss can be a scary, stressful, and upsetting experience.
When someone we care about is in this situation, we want to do everything we can to help. But it isn’t always easy to know what to do or what to say. Here, we explore the ways you can be there for a loved one experiencing job loss.
Understanding how they feel
People respond differently to job loss, and it’s normal for them to feel a range of emotions. “Some individuals are more mentally sensitive than others, meaning those who have lost their job, either suddenly or planned, may feel they have a lack of emotional control,” explains coach Nikki Culverwell.
“They may feel frightened, panic may set in, they may be thinking a lot of ‘what ifs’, worrying about the bigger situation. They also may feel a loss of confidence, and feel they may have a loss of routine.”
It’s important to understand our loved one’s emotions, and to let them know we are there to support them. This can help them realise how we still value them, which is especially important in this situation where their self-esteem may have been affected.
What to say
While there may be ways you can help them with finding solutions to their problem, try not to rush in and attempt to ‘fix’ everything for them. Avoid putting pressure on them, or telling them what they need to do now.
Nikki suggests avoiding saying things like, “At least you had a job!” and “What are you going to do?” when speaking to them. Try not to minimise how they are feeling, or to make them more panicked.
“When someone has heard news about their job loss, it is important to show you care and listen,” explains Nikki. She recommends the following as things that it may be helpful to say:
- Would you like any support?
- Do you need anything from me?
- How can I help right now?
- I know this is difficult right now, I understand how you are feeling.
- Would you like to meet up?
- I believe you are strong and can get through this.
Show your support
“Encouraging an individual to stay connected to the environment and others is really important as it gives us a sense of purpose, and has a positive impact on our emotional wellbeing,” says Nikki. “By doing practical things, this will reinforce that there is more to their identity than just their job.”
She suggests doing enjoyable activities together. Could you treat them to lunch at their favourite café? Is there a peaceful walk you could do together at a local park? Or maybe there are other activities they like that
could help them feel better, like seeing a film or going to a gig.
Keep in regular contact with them too, giving them space to talk about their situation, but also finding other things to speak about. Show them that you care about them, and enjoy their company – that they matter to you, regardless of what they are doing workwise.
While you shouldn’t put pressure on your loved one, it can help to know what resources are out there for if and when they are ready to look for another job. The National Careers Service (nationalcareers.service.gov.uk) and prospects.ac.uk offer valuable career information, advice, and guidance. There may be organisations where you live that help people find work – they can ask at the local job centre, or do a Google search to find out what’s available. If they went to university, they may still be able to access advice from their careers service as a graduate.
It’s common to be concerned about money when experiencing job loss. The Money Helper website (moneyhelper.org.uk) is a useful resource, with advice on the financial impact of job loss, and dealing with money worries.
If they are struggling with their mental health, you can gently suggest that they get support, such as from their GP, mental health team, or a qualified counsellor. Ask them whether they’d like you to go to the appointment with them, or if there’s anything else you can do.
Looking after your own wellbeing
Supporting a loved one who’s lost their job can be tough. You may desperately want to solve the situation, and feel hopeless at seeing someone you care about struggling. You might feel angry that they’ve been put through this, worried about their future, and concerned about their mental health and wellbeing.
But be sure to look after your own mental health, too. Talking to others can help, whether a trusted friend or a professional. Nikki also recommends self-care. You could use mindfulness techniques, or stay connected to nature by going outside for relaxing walks.
“Almost all of us will know the emotional rollercoaster of losing a job, and none of us should go through it alone,” says Nikki. “Remember, you’re entitled to seek support and stay connected, so don’t feel guilty. We are only human after all, and you’re allowed to look after yourself.”
Job loss is a common experience, and difficult for you and your loved one. Showing your support will help you both get through this and move forwards.