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How Does a Family Cope After a Job Layoff?

June 16, 2009 - Dennis Gingerich
This title question came to me via email a couple weeks ago when this new “Family Matters” blog was launched. The person asking the question wanted to remain anonymous but the story is, unfortunately, all too familiar these days. I would like to hear from you if you’ve been laid off or if your spouse was laid off recently or in the past. What has been the most helpful thing you’ve learned in dealing with the challenges of losing a job?

Without a doubt, it can be a challenging family issue when one or both spouses get laid off from their job. Of course, there are many variables – one income families, two income families, the larger main income lost or the smaller supplemental income is lost, etc. etc. Whatever the exact situation, it still has the potential to be a devastating family matter.

Job loss creates all kinds of new dynamics and issues in a family. For some, it’s the very first time in their life anyone in the family has ever lost a job. Unchartered territory can be frightening. Sometimes the spouse who still has their job can't fully relate to what the other is going though. There are obvious issues about financial security for the future? Can we pay the bills? Will we lose the house? What will we do for medical insurance?

There are possibly new role adjustments and self-worth issues at stake. When one’s identity has been closely tied with their career, their position and their job status, it can be disconcerting to lose that. Social upheavals can be a huge deal because a lost job can mean lost friendships with coworkers. There can be role disruption at home because one spouse who used to have certain responsibilities now is the sole income provider and the other one has more time on their hands.

There are many more aspects of life that can be significantly shaken with a job loss. However, let me change the focus. We get to choose our reactions to difficult circumstances. We don’t have to choose to be devastated when we experience an unexpected turn of events in our lives. That is not our only option or even our best option. We can choose to see this as a new prospect for adventure! I don’t mean to sound trite, but our attitude really does affect our altitude when we encounter turbulence. There are advantages of adversity. Problems provide opportunities.

We often ask the wrong questions when we have problems. We tend to ask questions like, “Why this? Why me? Why now? We could be asking ourselves, “Why not me?” We never can become all that God intended if we have no challenges in our lives. To eliminate our problems is to limit our potential. Where do we get the iron in our souls if we have no problems? Adversity proves our integrity. Circumstances do not make you what you are; they reveal who you are. The adversity of life just reveals your character.

There is good news! I’m hearing some great stories these days from people who have lost their jobs over the last year. Some have rediscovered their most important priorities they had lost while climbing the career ladder. Others have found whole new directions for their future as they retool and get ready to do something they’ve always wanted to do but didn’t have the courage to leave the comfort and security they enjoyed. I’ve heard stories of renewed relationships as parents invest more time in the lives of their children rather than just handing them money. I’ve heard testimonies of renewed faith in God as a result of people realizing they are not in control of their destiny.

Tough times are a time to reevaluate priorities, relationships, values, finances, faith and much more. It’s a time to trust your true friends who will support you and encourage you. Find a support group, see a counselor, talk to your pastor, rabbi or priest to get another perspective. If your life was built on sand, now is the time to rebuild on a solid foundation. It is a time to more than survive, it is a time to thrive!

I would be interested to hear your thoughts, ideas and learnings…


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