How to grieve a lost job and deal with uncertainty, according to a therapist

© Carl Court/Getty Images

By Julia Naftulin, INSIDER

  • More Americans are filing for unemployment than ever before while grieving the losses of their jobs and dealing with uncertain futures.
  • In the face of instability, taking care of your mental health is more important than ever and can help you cope with job loss, therapist Rachel McCrickard told Business Insider.
  • Focus on constants in your life, tell your family what you need to feel supported, and reflect on how you handled adversity in the past.

A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment, with more than 6.6 million people applying for unemployment benefits just during the week of March 28, according to the US Department of Labor.

As a result, it's likely you or someone you know is coping with job loss-related fear, sadness, and anxiety.

According to Rachel McCrickard, a therapist and founder of therapist training app Motivo, it's normal to feel helpless and scared after losing a job, and honoring those feelings is the first step towards working through them.

"There's a real sense of uncertainty and lack of safety that I think everyone is experiencing right now," McCrickard told Business Insider, adding that job loss can exacerbate those emotions. "So I would say one important tip is to just be gentle with yourself and to validate your feelings."

Once you take time to acknowledge and sit with your feelings surrounding your job loss, you'll be better equipped to find methods for grieving that loss while taking care of your mental health.


Focus on the constants that remain in your life

© Boston Globe/ Getty  The second biggest distractor was internet or technology issues, affecting 28% of people. TV and other distractions in the home round out the top three.

When a person loses their job, it can throw off their entire routine and create feelings of instability, both mentally and financially.

To cope with this, McCrickard suggested focusing on the people and things that remain constant in your life.

"That can be the love of your family or a close friend that you can always count on. If you have food, shelter, those kinds of things, it's good to just say, 'You know, I'm safe, I'm OK, I have food, and I know where my next meal is coming from,'" McCrickard said. "Some of those things can just help your body come down from the stress and anxiety that you're feeling."

At the same time, McCrickard acknowledged that for some, job loss can mean losing food, shelter, and safety. In that case, finding resources like food pantries and homeless shelters should be a priority. But it's still important for people to pay attention to their mental health needs.

"Focusing on your own mental health during these times, I think that's what helps you remain able to get out of bed and try to move through the situation," McCrickard said.

If you can virtually connect with a therapist, they can help you find ways to cope with your job loss, McCrickard said. If you don't have access to a therapist, she suggested trying free support groups like Support Group Central, Emotions Anonymous, and Mental Health America.


Tell friends and family what you need

© Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

In addition to inward reflection, McCrickard said being vocal about your needs with loved ones can help you get through a grieving period.

"People's intentions are really quite good. You know, people want to help out the people that they love. A lot of times they just don't know how, so be clear about it with them," she said.

McCrickard gave the example of a personal friend who jumps into problem-solving mode whenever McCrickard tries to vent about a problem.

"I just say really clearly to her, 'You know, I need you to be here for me by telling me that I'm capable of getting through that. That's what makes me feel strong and empowered through this,'" McCrickard said.

Whether you want a pep-talk or prefer when your friends commiserate with you, being explicit about what interactions serve you best will help your grieving process.


Remember a time when you previously overcame adversity

Losing a job can make you feel trapped and downtrodden, so McCrickard suggested drawing on personal experience to remind yourself that you'll get through the experience.

"Think about the things that you have overcome in the past and what tools you used to get through it. Maybe it was a bad breakup or a relationship that was cut off or anything like that," McCrickard said.

She said that meditation and yoga don't work for everyone as a mental health tool, so recalling previous healthy coping mechanisms can help inform the best strategy for you.

There are techniques that work for most people, according to McCrickard, like focusing on taking three deep breaths, or quietly observing what's in the room around you.

"It's a way to kind of bring yourself to the present moment and focusing on the things that you can control," she said.

Lastly, McCrickard said it's important to be cognizant of your social media usage and news consumption. She suggested setting boundaries for how much media you consume, whether that means giving yourself a set time every morning to check the news or unsubscribing from newsletters or social media accounts that make you feel anxious.

See more at: INSIDER

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