Finding Family Support After Losing Your Job

If you’ve been downsized, you may have decided that you’ll just be able to survive what comes next. Congratulations. But your family may not have the same confidence. Anxiety, uncertainty and fear may be gripping your spouse at this moment. Partners try to put up a good front, but down deep they’ve been shaken. Knowing that your whole department was let go doesn’t help. The statement, that it’s happened to everybody, may be true, but it’s not comforting to a spouse who’s uncertain about everything at this point. The same emotions you’re dealing with are the same emotions gripping your wife or husband.

In This Together

Most spouses take the attitude that it’s part of the game and nothing’s really changed, because you’ll be back to work before they know it. Your partner may think this kind of attitude is supportive when in reality it’s extremely detrimental. It’s detrimental because buying into it prevents you from grabbing hold of the oars and rowing like crazy. It’s the “business as usual” syndrome when Niagara Falls may be up ahead. You may understand you’ve been downsized, but your spouse must as well. You can accomplish this by immediately bringing your partner into the loop.

Show your feelings. Vent. Go crazy, and then conclude by laying out your strategy. Share the plan of action and ask if you’ve missed anything. Then sit down, shut up and listen to what your loved one says. Listen to the underlying feelings and thoughts.

When only one person is rowing in a two-oar rowboat, you go around in circles. Don’t interrupt, apologize, make excuses or get confrontational. And keep quiet.

This is your spouse, not the enemy. The word “communication” has been so overused that it sometimes becomes trite, but not in this instance. The message that must be communicated is that this downsizing happened to us, and we will get through it. We will survive.

The creativity of two people working together is incredible. You forget that you were young once (it doesn’t seem so, but you were), and you literally started with nothing. You made sacrifices, created pleasurable moments, started a family and survived to go on to greater things. Most people say, “If I could do it over . . .” or, “If I only knew then what I know now . . .” Well, you do. You and your spouse are attacking this problem with all the love, energy and experience that a lifetime together has created. Don’t waste it. Communicate. Row together.

Talk to Your Children

Children know what’s going on. If you think they don’t, then your ship has just arrived from another planet. They watch TV, surf the Internet and talk to friends. They know what’s happening. Their denial is usually one of, “It’s not my problem — it’s my father’s or mother’s. It’s not going to affect me.” That kind of thinking has to be changed, but not with the proverbial meat cleaver.

It takes time to explain what’s happened, why it happened and your plan of action. This conversation with the children must be done with a united front. You and your spouse must present it together, so don’t schedule the meeting until the two of you have your act down. But don’t dawdle or procrastinate, because your kids can be allies in your battle for survival. They also can be a big pain if they’re uninformed. Explain that the strategies aren’t set in stone and that any ideas they have are welcome. If the ideas have merit, they’ll be used. All of a sudden, we have more oars rowing the boat. Goodbye, Niagara Falls.

Let the kids know you’ll hold periodic meetings to review the situation and hear their suggestions and thoughts. Every family member must be brought into the loop. There will be times, however, when you’ll need to let off steam, express your fears and concerns, or just cry. Don’t be afraid to lean on that buddy that you’ve been there for, a co-worker going through the same situation or even a sibling. Now it’s your turn, but be careful not to overuse these people. You may find that, as sensitive as they are to your situation, continually hearing about you gets old. Pick your spots and pick their brains. Maybe they have an idea or two to add to your survival strategy for being downsized. Don’t be afraid to ask others for their thoughts. Take all the information you can get.

Take Advantage of Various Resources

Various churches, community centers and corporate-support groups offer resources for you to utilize. Check with co-workers, family members, friends and even your old company (yes, that too) about what’s available.

Meeting on a periodic basis with others in your predicament may help. I say “may” because there are many who choose not to start rowing. Don’t associate with them. You’ll know after the first meeting whether seeing them will help your survival strategy. If it doesn’t, you’re out of there, sayonara, goodbye. We’ll now only associate with positive people who have action plans.

Sometimes the Internet can be an information source. I stay away from chat rooms and groups. You don’t know who’s on the other end or the accuracy of the information being supplied. You want to be able to look at people you contact eyeball to eyeball. So, be careful when you deal with the Internet.

Some people will recommend professional counseling. Assistance from career counselors or recruiters is OK, as long as it’s free. I strongly believe that the action plan you create eliminates the need for professional counseling.

I will give you the only feel-good professional counseling you’ll need: You’ve been downsized. It’s not your fault. Get over it. Start rowing.

Are you happy? That didn’t take long. You didn’t have to come to my office and you didn’t have to lie on a couch. Enough of the dependency talk. Emotional well-being isn’t a subject to be taken lightly. Everyone’s going to react differently to being downsized. I can’t tell you how you’ll react, but I can tell you that this response should be universal: I’m in control. I have a plan. I have a family that knows all. We will survive.

By William L. Tatro IV

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