Reinventing Barb (1)
A series of articles about reinventing life after unexpected job loss
By Barb Carriere
Manager – Continuing Education
Retired January 2015
“Your position has been deemed redundant.” The remaining words were a blur. I felt as if I had just smashed head first into a brick wall.
The shock of the unexpected termination of my long-term employment was shattering to my physical, emotional, and mental well-being. The following two weeks were filled with tears, anger, and numerous conversations with those who offered their ear and their support. A Career Coach Service was available as part of the severance package and I found it provided an opportunity to understand the phases of change and the importance of caring for yourself, as well as giving me a chance to look into the future and set goals. What I found most helpful was the coach’s positive support of the person I was, outside of the ‘job.’
Who am I?
As the fog lifted, I realized I was grieving not only the loss of my job, but the loss of my identity. For many of us, our families, community members, and friends identify us by our job title and the work we do each day. When that job no longer exists, the question “who am I?” looms large. I’ve heard that losing a job ranks among the top five life situations that cause the most stress in our lives. Feelings of shock, numbness, anger, and frustration are normal and recognizing this assisted me in committing to move forward.
Prior to my job loss, my husband and I had listed for sale the home we had built eight years previously. A decision to downsize both property and home felt right at that point in our lives. Looking back, I realize this served as a positive distraction for me during the healing process, as it helped me to focus on the future. I began creating a photo book of memories of our home, which brought many smiles on those sad days.
At the two-week point, I was able to return to my office, at a time when few staff members were present, to clean out my personal belongings. A sense of closure sustained me as I walked out of the building with my career in a box and confirmation that I was no longer an employee.
What helped me in the following days was a truly wonderful gift, a gift that reminds me each day of how others saw me in my work. It was a ‘word cloud’ presented to me at a ‘Remember When’ party, created from feedback I received from fellow employees. It is a continual reminder of those attributes I have that cannot be taken away by a job termination.
Getting grounded again
I found that, wherever I was, questions about my job loss were plentiful. I developed a truthful, brief, and positive response to the questions, which flowed more easily the more times I delivered it.
As I moved towards acceptance of my situation, I took the opportunity to give to others and to volunteer my time as I had in the past. Giving back to the community felt good and reminded me about the positive actions that occur each day in our world.
Hiking, walking, snowshoeing, and yoga allowed me to maintain and expand my physical well-being and provided a time for quiet reflection. The gift of time provided the privilege of becoming more actively involved with my grandchildren, creating new memories. The impetus to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances took on a new level of importance. My life had been so busy when I was working that I had let important relationships slide and was in danger of losing touch. Now was the time to rebuild those connections. These ‘dates’ provided support and laughter as we reminisced about old times and caught up on the here and now.
I spent peaceful time each day in the crisp outdoors, reflecting on my path ahead. It became obvious that I already had multiple identities in my current relationships as wife, mother, grandmother, friend, sister, and neighbour. Within these roles I searched for my passions and examined how best to fulfill them.
At week six, I picked up the phone and called to enquire about possible work at a nearby garden centre, one I’ve visited rather regularly since we built our home. My love of gardening led me to accept the offer of part-time work in early April. Working in a warm greenhouse with my hands in the soil, meeting coworkers, and learning new skills provided an exciting new focus for me.
Right under our noses
Then our realtor called. The words “we’ve got a deal” hit me hard; I felt both happy and sad knowing that the weeks ahead would be filled with packing and the search for a new home. Unsure of where our new home would actually be, we started investigating a number of towns within a two-hour radius. Another force in our life was pushing me forward towards new pathways. Spring was in the air with a sense of a fresh start. Crocuses and trilliums were sprouting and the excitement of challenges lay ahead.
We were two weeks away from possession date and, through all our travels, had not found a new town or a new home. We started working on Plan B, in case we ran out of time. Then, one day, I walked through the door of a house in a wonderful neighbourhood and I knew I had found our new home. It was just across the bay from the home we sold; for all our searching, we ended up within minutes of the same town. Sometimes we don’t see that what we really need has been right in front of us all the time.
Letting others in
During these difficult times, I learned to allow others ‘in’ to support me. I recognized that my sadness was lightened when others helped me carry it. One afternoon the phone rang and my sister said, “I’ve lost my job too – they’ve declared bankruptcy!” All of a sudden the roles switched and I was providing the shoulder to cry on and the ear to listen. Even though my wounds were still fresh, they were healing well enough that I could now support her. How life delivers messages through mysterious ways. “Everything happens at the right time and in the right place” became the mantra that carried me through those early, cloudy days, and still provides a framework when reviewing daily events.
I see that the dramatic event of job loss provided me with the opportunity to design each day, to recognize that each day is a gift, and to become aware that I have so very much for which to be grateful.