How to navigate life after losing a job or income
Losing a job is a life-altering event that hurts. Whether you experience it through retrenchment, down-sizing, getting fired, an injury, or illness. It also feels personal, even if there are thousands of other people who are in the same situation.
Not only does it impact your finances, but it also significantly impacts your emotional and mental health. Experts often compare the grief of job loss to that of losing someone you love by death. This is because we define our identity and sense of purpose by the work that we do. And, when you lose your job, your life gets interrupted. The daily routine and stability that you’re used to no longer exist.
You also might feel shame for losing your income and the inability to provide for yourself or your family, especially if you were the sole breadwinner. You might find it overwhelming to realise that you no longer will be able to meet your other financial obligations such as paying off student loans, rent, car, etc. That’s why it can be challenging to cope with job loss, more so when you don’t recognise the impact it has on you. This, in turn, makes it even harder to navigate life and move on.
Because of this, we’ve put together a useful guide on how to navigate life after a job or income loss.
Face your feelings
When you lose your job and therefore, income, your mind gets filled with negative thoughts and feelings. It can be tempting to engage these thoughts and feelings, where you find yourself partaking in disruptive reactionary behaviour. This includes drinking, bingeing on junk food for comfort, getting lost in games, or bingeing on movies without taking care of yourself, withdrawing from your loved ones, and from the world. While that’s normal for anyone who is going through grief, you have to deal with these head on. Try to not deny these feelings, acknowledge, and face them. That way, you’re able to let this part of the grieving process pass a lot quicker and be able to accept your loss.
Accept your loss
You know the common phrase; “acceptance is the first step to healing,”? As cliché as it might be, it works by helping you deal with hard situations. When you accept the circumstances in which you’re in, you’re able to find ways to cope. An international medical doctor, Katharina Johnson explains that choosing acceptance allows you to take the power back from any difficult situation life throws your way.
“Acceptance does not mean you like the situation or that you are not doing everything possible in your power to change it. It simply means giving up resistance to what is already happening, which you do not have control over anyhow,” she explains.
Work through the crisis
After acceptance, it’s time to work through the crisis. That starts with taking care of your well-being. Learn to get adequate sleep, eat a balanced meal, and keep active. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean taking up running or doing home exercises if that’s not something you enjoy doing or something possible due to an injury or illness. But if you’re able to keep moving, by taking walks outside and soaking in the sun, do that instead. It will help you clear your thoughts.
For many, who come from disadvantaged backgrounds may not have the privilege to fully engage in these actions due to how dire the effects income loss can be. Do what’s possible to do what you can with what you have.
When you’re fired or retrenched from your company, you’re eligible to receive a payout as stipulated in your employment contract. Additionally, when you’re retrenched, you’re also able to seek out payments from the unemployment insurance fund (UIF). This is something that your company needs to help you with as you’ll have many forms to sign and submit to receive this type of payout.
Focus on what’s within your control
Take action by focusing on what’s within your control. If you have monthly debit orders for services or loans such as student loans, personal loans, credit cards, etc, you have to reach out to the lenders to negotiate new terms. Find ways to reduce or pause on payments.
The most important thing to keep in mind during your negotiations is that you have to seriously consider your current circumstances and discuss actionable plans. This is so that you don’t make promises you won’t be able to keep later on, which could land you in a situation you won’t be able to get out of. Trust is an important factor to establish with lenders, remember your credit score depends on this.
Reach out for help
When you find yourself in difficult situations, it’s okay to ask for help from your family and friends. It’s normal to feel embarrassed about asking for help but there’s no reason to suffer if you have people who are willing to help you the best way they can. Some of your loved ones might not be able to help you out financially. But they can help you with the emotional aspect and ensure that you have a safe space to vent out your frustrations without being judged. Some might be able to connect you with short-term or even long-term job opportunities, which could change the trajectory of your circumstances. And, you’ll never know if you’ll receive any kind of support if you don’t ask for it. Take the leap and ask for help.