Occupational Grief

When we speak about grief most of the time, we are probably speaking about someone passing away. But have you ever experienced occupational grief? Before you answer that, tell me, have you ever been fired from a job? Worse yet, have you ever been fired without actually being fired? You woke up one morning and the proverbial rag had been dragged from right under your feet and you didn’t even see it coming?

If you now get the gist of what I’m talking about, let’s get into it. Occupational grief in this context happens when you loose your job; suddenly most of the time. We all can agree that our jobs gives us an identity and when that is taken away from you so suddenly, you are literally robbed of who you are. If you doubt this, take a moment and write down the answer to this question; Who are you? As you write down your answers, make sure you do not mention you job title, the company you work for, your level of education or the positions you hold in various other organizations and stuff like that. Then read out loudly ‘who you are’.

One moment you are a respected member of staff in an organization and then you wake up and find yourself in the streets. Literally! And now you don’t know where to start from or what to do. And before you can wrap your head around what’s going on, the few or many friends you thought you had start vanishing. Your allies at work become distant, you can feel them judging you. People start to whisper when you pass. Then there are the ones who give you the ‘woiye!’ look. You can’t trust anyone at this point and you feel alone, embarrassed, ashamed and confused. Before you know it, everything turns dark around you and you sink into depression!

Grief is something very complex and we all experience it differently. In this moment of confusion, there is always the general feeling of anger and betrayal, especially when you feel that you did everything right, but you still got ‘burnt’. I write about this because I have been here, I have felt this. I was at the ‘peak’ of my young career when one evening I was called to the boardroom and what I thought was our usual management meeting turned into a case against me. At the time, I did not even understand clearly what I was being accused of. The charges were read out and the verdict was given, ‘come for your suspension letter tomorrow’. I did not even have time to cry. It was irreconcilable. That chapter closed. Just like that! Looking back right now, that was a very pivotal moment in my life and career because it shaped a lot how I perform my work as a professional.

But how do you deal with moments like this? Truth of the matter is, in your career, you will most like experience such storms. Would it be better that you shut everyone out and just ‘handle it’? Or would you recommend therapy during this grief? How about just venting to everyone who cares to listen and getting it all out? I don’t have the right answers. What I know however is that when you get here, you will need to dig deep into your soul and figure out how to stay alive. Survival! This is a storm and the only way to get to the other side it to walk through it. Or crawl if you like, but you must move to the other side. Acceptance only comes after you have dealt with the pain that you feel, because no matter how well you pretend outwardly, when the sun goes down, the lights go off, the curtains have been shut and it is just you and yourself, the entire weight of your loss and grief remains on your shoulders. It is important to grieve that loss. Before you even start sending out your CV to potential employers, be sure that you are handling your anger, lest you carry it over to your next engagement.

Blaming everyone around you does not change the reality. Drinking yourself to death won’t either and trying to act numb will only postpone your healing. Find one or two people you can trust and talk to them, seek wise counsel, but in your own self reflection, look deeply into yourself and see what you could have done differently because this shall inform how you move forward more carefully. Then gather your strength and start over again. There is no shame in starting over. And when you do, make sure that you never get too comfortable again, because that rag can come off anytime.

So my dear lady and gentleman, if you are facing an occupational storm right now, remember that the only way to the other side is by going through that storm. Go on and do it, because time waits for no man…..or woman!


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