Redundancy feels like bereavement. When it finally comes, it comes suddenly – like a thief – stealing something incredibly precious and leaving us with a deep sense of hurt and loss.
Assault and Robbery
Redundancy is something we have little or control over. Some take voluntary redundancy, but most are “made redundant”. And so we suffer redundancy as we suffer bereavement. Something horrible has been done to us without our consent. Something very valuable has been taken from us against our will. We feel mugged and assaulted – abandoned in an emotional ditch, licking our own wounds, completely unable to get back what we have lost. If only we could turn back the clock.
The end of our job is like the death of a close friend. Something we never wanted to happen. We feel the acute loss of something cherished and irreplaceable. We appreciate its value much more keenly now that we have lost it.
The One-way Journey
Like bereavement, redundancy is a permanent and irreversible. Our “end date” was set and “agreed” many months ago. Suddenly that fateful day is upon us. We empty our desk and say goodbye to our colleagues. The finality of it clutches our throat. There may be a light-hearted presentation when we put on a brave face and talk about “exploring new opportunities”. But when we walk out of the office or factory for the last time, we leave a huge part of our life behind forever.
It is a lonely walk to our car or to the bus-stop. As we travel home, we pay particular attention to the familiar landmarks – we won’t be travelling this way again. On one occasion, driving through the back roads home for the last time, I stopped the car by some open fields and had a good old cry. There was no going back. One day it was alive, now it was dead. And time marches on irreversibly in only one direction – into a big empty grey unknown. How on earth are we going to cope with it?
Loss and Uncertainty
Everything is gone – and along with it a whole load of emotional worth – feeling valued, feeling useful, a structure to our day, contributing to the family finances, mental stimulation and the social network.
Now there is very little to get up for. We miss our old adversary – the alarm clock. We miss our frenetic morning schedule. There is no gossip to keep up with, no boss to complain about, no endless “to do” list. There are no interruptions, phone calls, difficult customer, crises to manage. We are missing the bad as well as the good.
We are experiencing loss – something very important and meaningful has been wrenched away from us. We are bereaved.
And perhaps most of all we miss the social network we hadn’t even realised we had built and become to rely on. Of course we have friends and family outside work, and we will keep in touch with some of our colleagues. But all of that will require effort and organisation. In the workplace we had conversation on-demand, always available. More accessible than GPS or facebook.
We could chat about anything at any time – however trivial – and often it was. Swivel the chair round, meet at the mythical water-cooler, go for a coffee or sit on the same table in the canteen. It was all very easy and undemanding. Some we became closer to, others we bounced ideas off, some we teased, others we advised. We built up an easy network. And now it has gone.
And because our emotional nature abhors a vacuum, our emptiness will be invaded by self-doubt to accompany our loss and anger. Were we made redundant because we failed in some way? Am I not as good at my job as I thought I was? How will I find anything comparable? It may be many years since we engaged with the job market, had a job interview or “sold” ourselves. What if nobody wants us? What if, actually, I’m not very good? The redundancy money will only last so long.
Our self-doubts will twist around our loss and our anger, those three emotional assassins surrounding us, ready to attack us at different times. In the absence from activity, we will have too much time to think, and too much time to feel.
Rebuilding and Replacing
There is no easy therapy for all of this. As with bereavement, the one thing we want to reverse is irreversible. But, unlike with bereavement, some of it is replaceable.
We can start to rebuild and replace some of those assets which have been stolen from us. We can create a new – maybe more relaxed – routine. We can warm up a few old friendships and spruce up our social network. We can start to re-establish a sense of self-worth by doing things for other people we rarely had time for. We can find some mental stimulation in other ways – join a book club, start a new hobby, join a campaign, write a blog!
It is a slow repair, but with the advantage, that if we play our cards right, our days can become full, interesting and useful – but less frenetic and stressful than they were. Maybe now is the time to rediscover some of those long-forgotten pleasures – like reading, walking, cycling, cooking or simply having a lie-in. And we have a golden opportunity to spend quality time with those we love.
It will take time – we need to process the loss, hurt and self-doubt, but we don’t need to wallow in them. We need to start to look forwards more than backwards. And beginning to gently rebuild our lives and enjoy all the wonderful things which life still has to offer us, is probably the best therapy of all.
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