Redundancy can be classed as a trauma regardless of how much notice one is given. If we consider the things that help us feel secure in life, our jobs/careers or vocations is certainly one of them.
Losing a job, for whatever reason, can come as a shock – even if you knew it was coming. It’s a massive change and as human beings, we don’t take changes very well. Yes, there are opportunities which arise out of the change but first you need to process the feelings of rejection, grief, anxiety, panic, worry, loss of self esteem (as sometimes the rejection experienced in redundancy is taken personally) and loss of ‘self’ as you probably linked your self-worth to your job.
In this blog, I am not going to handle redundancy from the point of view of the person being made redundant but from the point of view of the person who is supporting a partner or loved one through a redundancy.
It may be that your partner, parent or close family friend has just been made redundant and you are watching them spiral slightly out of control.
Many feelings will arise including moodiness, upsetness, depression, anxiety, panic and insomnia. It is very hard to know how best to support someone through the roller coaster of emotions and if they are your close partner, you will almost feel like you are on the roller coaster with them.
It’s tempting to want to make them happy, distract them or tell them to stop being gloomy and feel different/ look on the bright side of life. A common human trait is to try to intellectualise the emotion:
“think of the opportunities”
“you never liked your job anyway”
“don’t be sad, this is a chance to really examine everything from a fresh perspective”
Although all these statements are probably true – it’s ALL about timing. Delivering these messages in the first few weeks is not going to go down well.
In the first few weeks, it’s critical for the ‘redundee’ to just feel their emotions. Emotions, when fully experienced, naturally evolve along the path of healing but its often the people supporting the person being made redundant that interrupt this healing pattern.
What you don’t realise, in offering intellectual platitudes is that you are only doing this so YOU can feel happy again. It’s your own discomfort with their emotional state being so linked to your own emotional state that upsets you. If you resist their emotional state, it will persist because it has no avenue to be expressed.
So to survive and be happy in the first few weeks of supporting your partner, it helps to stop linking your happiness to the happiness of this person – move to your own orbit and allow them to simply ‘BE’ where they are. Break your dependence on them and instead of fretting, go play tennis, go for a walk on your own or go shopping and allow them to be.
Here are a few tips of what to do and what not to do in supporting someone through this change.
One thing to guard against is that your partner does not avoiding dealing with their emotions by burying themselves in things which either numb the pain or distract them. Don’t get me wrong, in the early days of redundancy, the S.T.E.A.T.s are probably the things which help your partner feel better in each moment. BUT the thing to be aware of is that it’s not feeling better for real – it’s a false sense of security – a false feeling of recovering. It fits into the false healing category.
Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics include but are not limited to:
The problem with Short Term Emotion Avoidance Tactics is that they are short term. They do not last, and they do not deal with the true emotional issue. S.T.E.A.T.s are distractions that either damage or delay the recovery process.
Go fetch a bucket (a real one) and sit together with no TV or chaos in the background with the bucket between you both You start by encouraging your partner to express their frustrations, feelings and emotions into the bucket – you not allowed to respond except to acknowledge that you hear what they are saying and ask if there is anything else to go into the bucket – encourage your partner to ‘put all their frustrations into the bucket’ and vent everything that is pissing them off about life and how life should be the job is – JUST LISTEN.
Keep asking if there is anything else and keep going until the bucket is full and they can think of nothing else When done, you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door Now it’s your turn It’s good to say how you feel but I recommend not sharing your worries about the redundancy – focus on other things that annoy you or frustrate you — this way, your partner will feel they are not alone in being frustrated but they will feel that you are not pressuring them to snap out of their emotions. When done, you both pick up the bucket and throw out these frustrations out of the window or door
Now you both take turns to say what you are grateful for about your life. Your lives are actually very rich and amazing BUT because you dont focus on that, you dont see this. I want you both to come up with at least 5 things you are grateful for
Now you both take turns to say what you will accomplish tomorrow. This is important because at the moment, life is happening to both of you – neither of you say how you want your life to go or feel like you have any control over your lives.
So, I hope that helps a bit. It is very challenging to go through a redundancy, but even more challenging if you are the partner of someone in that situation.
Till next time!