Redundancy: five stages of grief

Losing your job is a significant life event which may bring a huge amount of stress and anxiety.  If you have recently lost your job, you may be feeling a range of emotions.  You are not alone.  Sometimes losing a job can be compared to losing a loved one, and you may go through a similar grieving process.  This article explains the process and gives some tips for coping with each stage.

Stage 1 – Denial

The first stage of the grieving process is often denial.  You may be thinking ‘this won’t affect me’ or ‘this can’t be happening’ and you may be continuing with life as usual in the hope that it’ll all go away.  This is very common, and we can all ‘bury our head in the sand’ a little to deal with the initial shock of losing a job.  But if we keep our head in the sand for too long, we can get stuck.

Some tips for this stage are:

  • Take time to process the news that your job has ended and give yourself space, it sometimes takes a while to accept things are really happening.
  • If you are being made redundant, find out from your employer what the redundancy process will involve.
  • Losing your job can be scary but very common; talk to your colleagues, friends or family members about your news.
  • Remember that losing your job is nothing to be ashamed of. It can happen to anyone.


Stage 2 – Anger

When you have realised what is really happening, you may become frustrated or even angry.  You may be angry at your employer for making you redundant, or you may be angry at those around you.  This is not uncommon, so be assured that this is a natural part of the grieving process for some people.  But it is important to find a way to deal with this anger and move on.  Some tips that may help include:

  • Find someone who will listen to you, and tell them how you are feeling. It’s ok to shout or cry if you need to.
  • Talking to someone may help you to get things off your chest and you may feel a sense of relief afterwards.
  • When you’ve done this, try to start letting go of some of those angry feelings. The NHS has some useful advice about how to do this.


Stage 3 – Bargaining

You may be starting to question what you could have done differently to prevent this from happening. You may be thinking of a solution to get your job back or to prevent your employer from making you redundant.  This might involve ideas of drastic changes in your life, or promising things that are unrealistic.  Often this is a natural reaction and may be used to try and put off dealing with the situation you are in.  To cope with this:

  • Try to remember that being made redundant is not personal and you are not to blame.
  • Look forward to the future rather than staying in the past – even if the future is unknown right now.
  • Letting go of your job will help you to see new possibilities.
  • Your job may be important to your self-esteem and identity, but it doesn’t define you. Write a list of your qualities and celebrate them.
  • Focus on the things you can control (such as updating your CV) rather than the things you can’t control.


Stage 4 – Depression

When you let go of your job and start to think about the future, you may feel an initial period of depression when the reality sets in.  You may experience a sense of loss from your job – even if it was a job that you didn’t enjoy.  This can lead to feelings of sadness, which can sometimes feel intense.  Remember that this is a grieving process, so feeling sad is a natural reaction to something we have lost.  To help you cope with this stage:

  • It’s ok to not be ok – this is part of the healing process. Give yourself time to heal.
  • Be kind to yourself and reflect on what makes you happy.
  • Think about a new routine – you may be spending more time at home, so plan things to do that you enjoy. This could be spending time on your hobbies, reading, or you could even start a course to learn something new.
  • Find time to relax and unwind – you may try yoga, gardening, DIY, or having a nice long bath.
  • Talk to someone about how you are feeling. This could be a friend, family member, or a professional.


Stage 5 – Acceptance

The final stage in the grieving process is acceptance.  By this point you have accepted that the situation is real and you have decided to take action.  You may still feel a little bit frustrated or sad at times – its unlikely that you’ll be feeling overjoyed about your situation.  But the main thing is you have accepted it and are keen to move on with your life.  You may start to consider some of these things:

  • Think about whether you want to find a new job in the same sector, or make a career change.
  • Update your CV with all the achievements you gained from your last job.
  • Contact people within your professional network that you haven’t been in touch with for a while.
  • Don’t ‘burn your bridges’ with your previous employer – you may need them to give you a reference for your next job.
  • Update your skills and knowledge. Research what employers are looking for, and increase your employability by doing a short course or making connections in this area.


Finally, try to stay positive.  Losing a job can be difficult, and not knowing the future can be worrying.  But try to think of this as an opportunity to make a change that you really want.  Sometimes losing a job can open the door to possibilities we would have never seen before.  Believe in yourself and do what you want to do.

Check out our advice on redundancy, making a career change, and finding support for your mental health.