Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Up until now, we’ve been talking a lot about grief in the context of death but, as we all know, grief is a fickle mistress and likes to inject herself into any aspect of life she can.
Today, she’s butting her nose into our jobs (or lack thereof). So, let’s poke at that bruise, shall we?
I like to think of myself as a trendsetter…. someone who does things ahead of the curve. I don't mean to brag but, I got myself laid off way before this whole pandemic thing, in July 2019 after a whirlwind bankruptcy and sale of the e-commerce company I'd been writing for. To say the rug was pulled out from under me is an understatement. You see, I’ve been laid off before. I knew what to expect. No biggie, right? There are other jobs.
For me—in a lot of ways—this was THE job. My deathbed job. The one they’d have to kick me out of when I got old and gray and couldn’t keep up with all of those trends I so pride myself on getting ahead of. I had my dream team. Brilliant, fearless women whose talents picked up where mine left off. I had my dream projects: scripting TV commercials, re-imagining brands, building campaigns, managing and influencing every consumer touch point we had… and the bow that tied it all up? I was really good at it. I was pretty much in heaven and, let me tell you, that’s a lofty height to fall from.
I'm not ashamed to admit it... I hit the ground. Hard.
Look, I'm no stranger to loss. I wear my Death Queen mantle proudly. When you're going through a death, there's no one you'd rather have in your corner than me. I've been through it... multiple rodeos of death and loss and healing. And when it isn't my rodeo, I'm even better at it. Death and I have a peace truce, meaning I'm not afraid of her--and all that she brings--and she doesn't strip me of my grace or my humor. To some, it's a morbid dance. For me, it's a gift... to face fear. To support others. To accept all of the fragile conditions that come with our life contract. I have the people version dialed in.
But this? This whole loss of job, and self and direction? This was a whole other breed of bull to ride.
It took weeks for me to sleep. I cried a lot. I snapped at my husband more times than any spouse deserves. I kept several Napa Valley wineries in business single-handedly and COMPLETELY lost my sense of self. I mentally negated my talents on the regular, questioned my age, experience, education, worth and prospects. In a word: I was OVERWHELMED. More so than I can ever remember being, but I suspect that's not really the case... perhaps I was being a skosh dramatic, but just a skosh.
I finally got to the other side of things when I identified this for what it is. Grief. This is a loss. It's a death of kinds. And it kicks your ass in very much the same way every death does... until it doesn't. That, friends, is the goal. THAT is the finish line. The new job. The next big thing. The peace. Those are the medals you get for breaking that tape. Just square up to this grief... live through it and kick some butt on the other side.
Since this Covid-19 shitstorm has leveled a huge number of jobs—dream or otherwise—Christine and I decided it’s a good time to talk about the very real feelings that come with this kind of loss and to reassure you that you’re not alone.
So this is where I'm gonna drop some knowledge on you (8 months in the making):
First, accept that it sucks. If I could make each and every one of us a t-shirt that says “This is fucking bullshit” to wear as we navigate our collective next steps, I would. It’s awful. And no number of virtual cocktail hours or episodes of the Tiger King are going to make that feeling go away. (Hint: they’ll help, though.)
Remember To Be Kind To Yourself: You lost something, whether it’s your livelihood, or your dream job, or your tribe of co-workers who made going into work fun. You’re going to have your moments, and God help the spouse, child, neighbor, pet or customer service agent who gets in your path. That’s OK. Get it out. (Just make sure to apologize when you’re done!) No one expects you to have anything figured out. (And if you do, can you tell me how? I’m still meandering down this path with a glass of wine in one hand and a whole bunch of “let’s give this a try” in the other.)
Take Time: There are days you’re going to be at the computer for 8 hours, energized to find the next big thing (Go! Go! Go!). Those are great days. There will also be days where the idea of getting out of yesterday’s pajamas and moving from the couch to the bed seems like an impossible task. That’s OK too…
Keep Moving: Get outside. Walk the dog. Read a book. Listen to your music extra loud. Do research. Fill out those forms. Update that resume.
Also, accept your grief. Talk about it. Challenge it. Rise above it. Move forward. Then, (this is a big one) acknowledge that you’ve done all that you can and—sing along with me—let it go. You only have so much control. I know, it’s a truthbomb that’s hard to swallow, but it’s really the one thing that’s going to ground you in this process. Finally, don’t forget to breathe. (Didn’t realize you’d stopped doing that, did ya?)
It may take weeks, months... or longer. But you know what? It’s gonna pass. That new job. That new adventure. That new opportunity. It’s there. And when you find it, this will all make a little more sense.
In the meantime, I leave you with this:
It’s OK. The tears. The frustration. The sleepless nights. All of it.
We’re all going to be OK.
But while we wait, let’s remember that we’re in this together and that, when all else fails, there’s always online shopping, cat and dog videos, live chats with family and friends, and really bad TV to get us through it.
Be well. Be strong and be positive. You’ve got this.