5 Stages of Grief

by Heligirl on December 15, 2010

in Daily Ramblings

I’ve not been much up to writing lately, as you can probably imagine from last week’s post. Been working my way through the 5 stages of grief a few times. A day.

5 stages of griefI was handed a big old “exit packet”  from HR when I was told last week that I’d be laid off at the end of the year. In it were several articles printed from our employee assistance agency. One was a breakdown of the stages of grief. I have found that handout rather fascinating as I see myself experiencing them all.

First you go through all the stages. Then you do it all over again. Sometimes you can go through the cycle several times on one day. Talk about fun. And the things my mind has done to keep my mind occupied are just as terrifying at times.

First, before the stages start, there’s shock. I handled that by taking control of what I could. I gave notice to all my childcare folks since I had almost 30 days notice myself. I let my freelance customers know I was available for more work. And I put the word out for swap options with other moms so I could continue to attend co-op preschool with each of my kids. When I slowed down from that frenzy, the stages hit like a runaway train:

1. Denial: This can’t be happening. It must me a mistake. I just can’t believe it. For me, this lasted about 30 seconds, then I dove right into stage 2. No use dwelling on the denial. I was in that long enough when I first heard the changes were coming to our company three months ago and no one could confirm if my job would be safe. No denying it now and I had the exit packet to prove it.

2. Anger: How could they do this to me? After all the years and work I did, this is what I get? Why can’t they find me work at the sister company? I’m more skilled and experienced than others not losing their jobs. They’re destroying my company. They’re getting rid of me because I question too many things, I’m a trouble maker. What? I have to teach someone else to do my job before I leave?!? Never has my PR mantra “if it feels good, don’t say it” been more valid. Fume, fume, cuss, growl, snarl, drink, pass out. Repeat.

3. Bargaining: I chose to skip this part after the news. You don’t get anything good out of it and you only lose self respect. I did a lot of bargaining when I thought our department was going to go away. I offered to work less hours, work from home, change jobs, do different work, etc. Actually, I feel rather ridiculous for bothering to bargain. The people I talked to were just as at risk as me (my VP today announced his retirement). They had no real say in the end. At this point, I realize it’s rather stupid to request to stay on the sinking ship than to take the spot on the life boat being offered (as a former VP in our company put it to me this past week).

4. Depression: I’ve been depressed for a while as I’ve watched the company be ripped apart. It stems from having no control at all. I have bad dreams and trouble sleeping, but that started months ago. Since getting the news I’ve had nightmares of being stuck working without my favorite people at my company. Surely that’s a part of the depression. I have trouble completing simple tasks, my mind wonders, and I can go from feeling great to crying at a moment’s notice. Then I wonder why I care. If they don’t care enough about me to keep me employed, why should I care enough about them to be depressed about leaving. Then I go back to stage 2. In fact, I seem to just vacillate between stage 2 and 4 most of the time.

5. Resignation: I’ve accepted that the job is gone. I’ve also accepted that what I’m really sad about is that I’m leaving the secure sensation of a regular paycheck, my routine and my buddies. But I have lots of offers for freelance work coming my way. I’m not sure how I’ll have time to do it all now that I’m home with the kids. I’ll develop a new routine on my terms the way I want. I won’t be on call 24/7, tied to my cell phone. I won’t be stressed out by the line our sister company keeps crossing to push my team around. And, my buddies haven’t gone anywhere. The ones I love best are already gone from my old office and I see and talk to them outside the office now. In fact, I’m going to see them more, thank you very much.

I think the hard part for me is letting go. A former boss used to tell me I was the junk yard dog. I really don’t like that old boss, but I have to admit he was rather accurate in his assessment. I am wicked passionate about things and I was very passionate about my company. Still am. I need time to let that sense of duty to protect it to pass away. Before I had kids, I was the job. But my priorities changed after having kids and they’re my life now. I’m not defined by the company name on my business card. My first job is mom. And no one can give me an exit packet for that.

In the meantime, between being angry (really having a hard time with the fact that I have to teach someone else to do my job) and depressed, I’m working hard to focus forward.

Snap out of it!, I tell myself. I get to be home with my kids. I get to choose what work I do. I’m my own boss now. We’re financially stable. I don’t need to work. And my daycare just offered me a deal to bring the kids one day a week that I can afford. I’ll get one day to myself to work, play, visit pals, or veg out in front of the TV in my underwear.

And I’ll never be asked to teach anyone else how to do that.


Making It Work Mom December 15, 2010 at 7:25 am

Oh gosh so sorry to hear your news. I missed your post last week as I was *blissfully* (sarcasm) enjoying my time in Disney with screaming Tweens.
I think the biggest thing is that we spend our whole 20’s and most of our 30’s (until children start to come into the picture) being completely defined by our jobs. The first question most people ask is “what do you do?” and most of the time we are fairly proud of what we do. Especially when we have worked so hard to get there.
So even though in the long run this seems like it could be a great thing for your family, I get the depression. It is now all about redefining who you are.

I look foward to reading about how you do it.

Twitter: Heligirl
December 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

You hit the nail on the head. Yes, THAT’S what I’m feeling. As a writer, I’m having a very hard time expressing what’s going through my mind. But I guess I have to understand what I’m feeling if I’m going to write it, eh?

LCW December 15, 2010 at 8:17 am

so sorry about the news and horrible timing. like you said in your previous post, when a door closes, a window opens. use this experience and run with something you’ve been wanting to do. best of luck moving forward!
LCW recently posted: Gift Idea and Sale!

Twitter: Heligirl
December 15, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Thank you my friend. Sorry I’ve been away. I really appreciate you visiting to share your support. It means a lot. 🙂

Krista December 15, 2010 at 8:42 am

It sucks. There’s just no other way to describe it. You’re doing a great job at keeping your head up and finding the positives. Better than I would be, probably. Especially over having to teach someone your job thing. That’s not cool at all.
Krista recently posted: Burning Questions

Twitter: Heligirl
December 15, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Oh I could say so much more on that topic Krista, but I’m struggling to keep in together in so many areas, including keeping it as professional as I’m physically able to do. Thanks!

Susan December 15, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Be gentle on yourself. It’s a really tough time right now And having to teach my replacement to do my job would really burn my butt. Hang in there. When you need a lift, grab the kids and give them a big squeeze.

Twitter: Heligirl
December 15, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Thanks Susan. My sweet little girl finds me crying from time to time and she comes up to me and kisses me on the cheek then announces, “all better.” That warms me up all good and toasty inside.

JP December 15, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I was never let go so I really can’t give you too much help here, sweetheart…except to try to look at that job as a stepping stone to your next! …:)JP

Twitter: Heligirl
December 15, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Thanks JP. You’re a help by just offering your thoughts. I’m so grateful for my pals, bloggy and otherwise. Thanks for the thoughts. I know I’m on to bigger and better. It’s just getting through the mourning and then letting go I need to do now.

Michael Fox June 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Heligirl, thank you for sharing your powerful story!
You thoughtful personal post is an ideal link for my first post on my renovated management blog – http://www.valueindetail.wordpress.com
I am working on getting managers and management students to think creatively so finding a quirky (that is a good thing) blog post, written for mums by a heli flying mum, and talking about the corporate world: Magic!
Thank you and keep up the good work.

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