Tears in Minnesota -- and everywhere else

by: Joanne Meehl

I've been there, on exactly this day in 2003, so I know what it's like: you go through the motions as you put the dinner plates on the table, as you feed the dog, go through the mail without being able to read a thing, knowing that any time now, your spouse will be home and you'll have to say, Today I was laid off.

You will have to watch their face, and your kids' faces, as they take it in. Lost your job? Wow. Lost your job, really? The silence. Then, Are you OK?, to which you lie and say "Yeah."

Later, you talk about the vacation or the lake house and how now we should probably change our plans for the summer, just in case. Just in case. You don't want to say it: Just in case I don't find another job soon.

Yes, you think, I'll be getting unemployment, and they're sending us to outplacement for help with the resume and so forth. We have some savings, but that was for the future, not now. What will I do? I was supposed to retire from there, or at least work another few years there. Now what?

Sure, it's been in the news about layoffs. But you, laid off? At your company, which hardly ever has had a layoff? Isn't this supposed to happen to other people?

You tell your friends in a day or so, and they reassure you that it's not you, it's the times, you can't take this personally. Except you do take it personally, even if 50 or 500 people went with you. After all, it's your paycheck that's now gone.

And once you're gone and someone else is now doing the work they made you leave on your desk, and you are driving past a Starbucks and see someone on line there on a break from work, with their company ID key card dangling off their hip, you feel envy that you no longer have a key card or a company or a job to go to. And you realize you took all that for granted.

There is no way around this pain. And yes, I will tell you although you don't want to hear it, you will go through all the other stages of loss and grief. Someone has put names to them because they are real, and you will experience every one of them. It's necessary. Go with it.

But know this: you will get through it. It won't be easy, and you will be challenged in ways you never knew. But: you will find others in the same situation who have moved through the first steps, and their example tells you that you will move ahead just like they have. You'll find that networking group that fits and maybe a coach to help you avoid the rocks and rapids and you'll meet new people who will be glad to meet you and who you'd never have met if you were still working. And you'll learn about the job market today, and you will begin to burn with something new: a ferocity about what's ahead. And you'll begin to believe it, no matter what the headlines say: that you will find a new job, maybe even a better one than you had.

Years from now, in your new job or maybe the one after that, you'll still remember the date of your layoff, especially if you were at your company a long time. But the pain will have faded. And you will have a good, or very good, or even great new job. You still see friends from back then, who were laid off with you, and they've made it past, too. And you'll get to enjoy the lake house again and at the little shop in the town nearby, the one that sells cabin decor and shoelace licorice and shot glasses with moose and loons on them, they will have one of those inspirational magnets that says "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right", and you will smile. Because you learned you can. And everything is OK.


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