Six months ago I lost my job. No. Let's get real. I was fired. Via a three-sentence email that provided no explanation for my termination and after five years of service to an organization whose mission held great meaning for me. I never saw it coming and it left me reeling. It's only now, six months later, that I can appreciate all the good that has come of this.
The lessons I’ve learned in the last six months, though painful, have been a blessing. I’m a better friend, a more grateful person, and I’ve finally learned my value as a human being does not come from my work.
After being fired, I felt like life had sorted me into the non-worthy category. That’s not a great place to hang out. I relied on my friends and loved ones to lead me out of that abyss and I could not have done so without the support of each and every one of them. Feeling their love and support was the single most touching blessing in being fired. They helped me make it through days I wasn’t sure I could survive. They gave me faith when I had no hope left. They gave the word “friend” a truly new and deeper meaning for me, one that I will never again take for granted.
The words of our friends always come from a place of caring and they have so much power to heal our hearts. But sometimes, well-meaning friends can utter words that leave us tumbling back into the abyss. No friend means to do this. But its not always clear what to say or do to brighten those dark places for those we care about most. Those speaking to someone recently unemployed should always speak from the heart and carefully consider how their words may be interpreted.
Here are a few common reactions that I heard from friends following my termination and for months afterward. These comments left me feeling hopeless, worthless and pitied, though I know this was not their intent. If your friend is facing a job loss or similar crisis, please read through these comments and try to avoid perpetuating these kinds of messages when you try to connect:
1. “What a terrible thing you're going through. I’m so glad I have my job.”
2. “What do you do all day? I would go crazy if I didn’t have a job to go to every day.”
3. “You wouldn’t believe the way your former boss trashed you at the office today" (and then proceed to tell the story).
4. “OMG! What are you going to do?”
5. “Your situation is the reason I hold on to my job.”
6. “Our boss has changed since you left and things are really improving at the office.”
I heard each of these statements uttered multiple times, usually from the mouths of loving friends. I know their intent was not to hurt me. Their expressions were really more about their own fears. They were merely expressed vulnerabilities that came to the surface after witnessing the drastic and sudden change in my circumstances.
The loss of a job is frightening. Suddenly we doubt our worthiness as a person, our ability to provide for ourselves, and our reputation in our community. It can cut us to our core. But its that very vulnerability that allows us to heal and learn and become stronger than ever before. Below are some of the most beautiful words spoken to me by my friends that helped me realize that potential. They are acknowledging of my pain, confident in my strength to land in the right place at the right time and express a willingness to be there whenever I need them.
1. “I understand, but you are strong and you will get through this.”
2. “Call me whenever you want to talk – I’m here for you.”
3. “Everything will be okay in the end, and if it's not okay, it's not the end.”