Friday, February 6, 2009

Taking care of myself after losing my job

Losing a job is a loss that must be acknowledged. We must grieve the loss, we must be gentle with ourselves, and we must also take positive action.

I'm exhausted already and I've only been unemployed for 4 days.

I've decided that I will go back to working with glass (I can rent time in my former instructor's studio) even though it's an unnecessary expense. While I'm very worried about the financial situation -- I have no idea how long it will take me to find a good job -- I also have to take care of my mental health. The glass work has been a big part of my life for a year now. I miss it terribly and right now, I need something to hold on to that's not all about the job situation.

I know my former co-workers miss me and are very sad that I was let go. They've been kind enough to share that with me. Some of the people have sent me very beautiful notes about how much they valued their time with me. I'm going to print them out and make a booklet of them so I have something to look at during the tough times.

The tough thing about work connections is that they are often very fragile. When you're there in the office together, the common thread of work events tie you together. But when you leave, those connections are gone. There's often very little you have in common. So, those bonds are lost. The people are lost to you. On top of the work benefits (the fantastic salary, the nice office, the great commute), I am feeling the loss of the people connection.

Yesterday, I went into the office for the last time to gather my things. A few people driftedby to say goodbye, and then it was done. For a day or so, there was a big flurry of email from so many people. They were sad, angry on my behalf, and very generous in their support of me. But, once it's all been said, there's nothing left. And they go about their work life...a life that no longer includes me.

This is a grief that hurts. I'm also very, very angry. That the people who got rid of me didn't have the decency, respect or humanity to let me pack my things on the day they made me turn in my badge. That they made me turn in the badge so that I had to beg for entrance like a leper when I came back to get my things. That they made me wait TWO days before I could come in and get my stuff. I think they assumed that I would be content to let them pack my things and send them to me. And, that I had no wish to say goodbye to my colleagues face-to-face. I've gone through layoffs before, but I was never treated like this. There was something so very personal about it all. About the fact that my manager never warned me that I was at risk. That I wasn't given a chance to find something else in the company. My manager was able to get a new position opened for herself and the company plans to backfill her old job. No one offered me a chance to take her job. They simply assumed that I didn't want it. But, I would have taken it, if only to keep my income going for awhile. It was as if someone had decided that I had to go, no matter what. Not personal? I wonder.

I know enough to realize that I have to sit with the grief and the anger. I have to allow it when it comes so I can work through it and then leave it behind. I have to be kind to myself. Hence, I will allow myself to spend the money to work in a glass studio. A type of therapy for me to help my own mental health. I know also that I need to be careful of becoming overly obsessed with the hurt feelings and start moving towards a new beginning. I am pleased that whenever someone has offered me something -- even if it's just to have lunch with me -- I am accepting their help.

I didn't love my job. I didn't get along with my manager. I had great ideas but she never supported them. But I loved all the things that came with it.

I was reading someone's posting on Flickr awhile back. Someone who had also lost her job and had been going through other difficult times. She said that for her, 2009 was the year that she would embrace the uncertainty in her life. I, too, must learn to do that now.

Next post...steps I'm taking to get put structure into my life while unemployed. Stay tuned...

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