Grieving At Christmas

Are you grieving at this time of year more than usual and feeling out of sorts as a result? You know, there’s merriment joy all around you whether it’s songs on the radio, Christmas cards that arrive in the post, the humourous social media posts that land on your homepage; and somehow you just don’t feel in sync with all that carefree joy all about you.

You find yourself on this pendulum swinging between moments when you get caught up in those happy moments yourself and then feel pangs of guilt as you recall the loss of someone special in your own life. Your laughter and broad smile disappear from your face replaced with stress lines on your forehead and a sombre look of remembrance. One moment you feel happy, then you’re sad, and then you’re guilty again about bringing everyone around you down in spirit. Oh if you could just get back to feeling, ‘normal’; the normal you used to feel in years past!

Welcome to your new normal. The emotions and feelings you’re experiencing are valid, very real and yours to deal with and process to the extent you are able. While normally in control in most areas of your life, it seems like you haven’t yet mastered this specific one; dealing with the loss of someone significant in your life. Try as you might, you haven’t found a way to – as they say – get over it; deal with it; move on.

The fact that Christmas brings along with it words of good cheer from everyone from family and best friends to work colleagues and strangers is well-meaning but only seems to punctuate the feeling that things aren’t usual. “Usual” means that for the other 11 months of the year people aren’t wishing you happy holidays or merry anything.

Think of that pendulum metaphor again. Your balance point looking back seemed to be when the one you’re grieving now was still around. When they departed, you experienced a shift where sorrow, longing and heartache have moved the pendulum. Then at Christmas we see, hear, smell, taste and feel the good; it’s families gathering around singing carols, over indulging in rich foods, their gifts, bright lights in the night, decorations and traditions deeply steeped in family history brought out and on exhibit 24/7 until Christmas is over. All of this swings the pendulum in the other extreme; where you’d normally be happy to go and make merry of your own accord.

But whatever side that pendulum is on at a given moment, you’re private thoughts can’t seem to be a peace with. You’re feeling guilty when privately grieving and feeling remorseful when you catch yourself humming a Christmas song in your head let alone out loud. So yes, you’re feeling out of sorts all the time. Why can’t everyone around you understand this and give you your own space so you can get the pendulum back to the center?

Of course to others, they see mood swings and may feel they are walking around on eggshells trying not to set you off. They want desperately to be of help and support; they worry don’t they? And you of course are wondering why they themselves are seemingly handling things much better than you are. Don’t they miss the departed? Don’t they care as much as you do?

Everybody experiences loss and everyone processes the feelings that go with loss in a very personal way. The thing is there is no set timeline for doing so. People who experience long grieving periods might worry those who don’t, and those that don’t worry those who do because they may come across as unfeeling, callous, cold and detached.

It’s healthy to accept that we all process loss and figure out how to move ahead on our own at our own pace. We know intellectually that death is inevitable where there is life; the day we get a puppy we know a day at some point will come when the pet will pass away. Does this make it easier? Maybe for some but not for all. And things get magnified for many when the loss isn’t a family pet but a family member such as a mother or father; daughter or son.

So here it comes…Time is the answer. How much time? Who is to say? You can no better predict how long you’ll take to deal with your personal loss than you could predict how long you’ll live yourself.

Now this grieving process of dealing with the loss of someone special is identical to the process of grieving over a family pet for some and yes grieving over the loss of employment. That may seem trivializing your loss of a family member but to some people, the shock, anger, denial, bargaining and eventual acceptance which makes up the grieving process is just as real when losing a job and shouldn’t be dismissed as not just as real.

Give yourself permission to have your moments of pain and don’t apologize for your tears of remembrance. These are your own very personal moments and your thoughts are not to be taken as a weakness of character. You should never expect nor hope I imagine to entirely forget the person gone, the pet gone or the job lost.

You will eventually get to where you will give yourself permission to be happy without feeling conflicted or guilty. Your good mental health will return. Do accept wishes for a merry Christmas as they are intended; with only the best of intentions.

On The Rebound After Losing Work Or A Relationship

Even if you’ve never gone through a breakup in a relationship, you’ve probably been around others who have, or at the very least seen a television show or movie where someone gets dumped or walked out on. Ever noticed how quickly many of those people get right back into the swing of things with a date set up by their friends, and how it just doesn’t seem to work out long-term? Dating on the rebound.

On the other hand, sometimes the person steps back from dating altogether and does some self-assessment and figures out what exactly they’re looking for in a partner, how much they may have changed themselves, and while they don’t cut themselves off from the opposite sex, they do limit that interaction to conversation and not necessarily a full-blown date for a period of time while they ‘get their stuff together’ and mourn the past relationship depending on how long it lasted.

Why would job searching be any different? Sometimes I hear people who have been in a long-term relationship with an employer and are now out of work, state that they are right back at it and prepared to take the first job they can get, especially in our tight economy. While it’s commendable in some respects, on the other hand it can lead to a poor fit and a short-term job which they’ll either quit or be let go from prior to meeting their probationary period.

The reason things don’t work out on the rebound often is the same for job seekers as it is for those in new relationships; not enough time was spent thinking about what happened and why, and assessing what is important and needed in the next job, the next Supervisor, the next workplace culture or atmosphere. You can tell it’s still raw and an emotional subject when you ask someone to tell you why they left their last job and they tell you they’d rather not talk about it.

Now just to be clear, I’m not suggesting at all that you take months to mourn and wallow with ice cream and chocolates with the drapes pulled and shuffle around your apartment shutting yourself off from all human contact. Far from it. What I’m suggesting as a consideration is that if you are in the situation of having been fired, laid off or released in some way from a job initiated by the employer, you take time to take stock of things prior to setting off down the street with your resume.

First of all, it’s important to objectively ask yourself if your release was something beyond or within your control and to be honest about it. If you were laid off because the company didn’t have enough work, that’s not something you can control and you won’t have as much damage to your self-image as say you might if you were underperforming and know it and that led to you being released for not achieving goals and targets that others met. That is something that may have been entirely in your control, and you know deep inside you just didn’t exert the required effort.

Next it’s a good exercise to think about the environment you worked in. Was it noisy, dusty, casual, demanding, indoors, outdoors, friendly, professionally run, unionized, etc. What did you enjoy and not enjoy about the job, the people you worked with, the responsibilities that you were given, the commute to work, the hours of the job, the location, the clients or customers, your co-workers, management, training opportunities etc.

Get a hold of your past performance reviews and look them over. Were there signs and directives for improvement and did you or didn’t you hit those? Look for words of encouragement and praise for performance on those that at this fragile time will help boost your ego and you may also be able to use these in future interviews when the question comes up, “How would your last employer describe you?”

Now ask yourself after this time, “Do I want a job exactly like the last one or am I looking for something different? If you want some changes in your next job, what are they? Maybe you are seeking a Supervisor with a different style, or a change in working conditions, or a move right out of the entire field and try something new. Perhaps you want to take your accumulated knowledge, contacts, skills and expertise and open your own company and launch your business. You have options.

Of course the amount of time required for this assessment and reflection period will change from person to person just as the amount of time required to mourn the death of a family member varies from person to person. It’s still a period of grieving; a time of life when you’ve experienced a shock that came unexpected, and you’re entering a period that’s unstable, uncertain and you hope will eventually be replaced by whatever is your ‘new normal’.

Just like after a failed relationship however, you’ll seldom find answers in the bottom of a glass sitting at a bar; at least justify it to yourself as a good place to start networking if you do however!

All the best in this period of transition. And something else to think of on that note; if you’re in transition, that means where you are now isn’t where you’re going to stay, so whatever you’re feeling now will pass and it’s the future you can influence based on decisions you make in the here and now.

All the best.