Big Hurdles to Overcome
Sudden, shocking loss hits ordinary people day in and day out. Strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, and car accidents snatch lives in an instant. Long malingering diseases rob daughters of mothers, grandchildren of beloved grandparents, and colleagues of valued coworkers. The hole in the heart left behind by the death of an immediate family member or a very close friend is surely the cruelest blow of all.
One positive aspect of a major loss is the surge of sympathy and support that follows it. Much has been written acknowledging that a person can be clinically depressed for a year or more following the death of a spouse. Support groups abound to help the grieving widow. Larger corporations that conduct major layoffs will frequently support the severed employees in transition with outplacement resources to help them find new jobs.
Death of a Marriage
Divorce never ends up being friendly. No matter how amicable at the outset, divorce is always painful. After all is said and done, something big has ended — a marriage. If you have gone through a divorce you know it is a heart-wrenching experience. It can also be economically disastrous, especially for women.
Dark days lie ahead even after a divorce is finalized. The temptation is to vilify the ex-spouse, which may be warranted. However, most likely the pairing brought out the worst in both parties. Finger-pointing cannot be the only means of moving through the experience, however. Each partner will need to do some internal self-examination to understand where the common goals of the marriage diverged and figure out what self-knowledge can be gleaned from the experience. For those whose marriage unravels at the same time that careers are wrapping up, there is the double whammy of ending and failure.
Marriage Ending with Death
When a couple vows to be true to each other until “death do us part,” there is the implied understanding that one of them will experience profound grief with the loss of the other. If this drastic separation comes at the end of decades together, the survivor will be challenged to find a new identity. The pain of the loss and the realization it brings that, for each of us, life will end someday, can translate into a heightened appreciation for the loveliness of the smallest aspects of daily life. Compared to death, is the traffic snarl that irritating? Maybe the extra few minutes driving can provide more time to listen to a favorite CD of yours, or favorite program on the radio.
The loss of a spouse means a radical change in daily routine. As the excruciating ache begins to subside, the opportunity to explore new interests, make new friends, and create a new life becomes not only possible, but paramount. This new stage could never happen without first experiencing and then working through the loss.
Young people setting out in their careers today are predicted to switch jobs or career paths many times, perhaps ten or more. What the economists and social trackers who make these predictions do not include in their forecasts is how often the changes will be the choice of the worker or due to some other forces. Reactions to leaving a job can include relief, devastation, excitement, or nervousness.
Whether the change is voluntary or imposed, there is at least a twinge of loss for what is left behind. If it is the last job of a career, there may be quite a large experience of loss (as well as joy and relief) for the good old days, or feelings of regret about your career choices. If it is a loss as a result of corporate downsizing, it can be an opportunity to try something completely new, or to repackage oneself as a specialist in the field for hire as a consultant.
Leaving a job may be completely voluntary. An exciting new offer has been made to move to another firm. Or perhaps it is finally time to take the plunge and follow your entrepreneurial instincts and open a business. Even with the most positive reasons for leaving a position, there is a need to acknowledge what is being left behind: a known work environment, relationships with colleagues and customers, perhaps a steady income.
Sometimes a job promotion comes with a requirement to relocate to unfamiliar territory. The excitement of the promotion will be tempered by the loss of a familiar community. Re-establishing a life full of friends, activities, and community service takes time. Loneliness and missing your old life can be hard.