Now that the deer in the headlights sensation has worn off, we are trying to move forward with our lives. Life does not stop when the breadwinner is laid off. There are a million things that we don’t think of that need attention. It’s very overwhelming. In fact, it’s very tempting to just escape and procrastinate. But that does no one any good. In fact, ignoring the situation can MAKE IT WORSE.
The Pit of Despair
When my dear one was laid off, one of the things that I worried about was that one or both of us would sink into a depressive pit from which we could never emerge. To some extent, that did happen. Spouse hid his head in a riveting historical novel (which he had read at least three times before) for two days. He just stayed in bed and read. I, on the other hand, spun around trying to fix things – you know, be proactive. I felt resentful that he was not trying to fix the situation immediately. I really didn’t react with much empathy. Never mind that he was laid off on a Friday and deserved a weekend off. Neither his reaction nor mine helped. Instead, after the flurry of activity, we both got sick for 2 weeks. The kids did not. Finally, I succumbed to a rather deep depression for a few days.
An acquaintance mentioned that my husband and and I were both probably “shell-shocked” and needed some time to decompress from both the layoff and the toxic work environment that he had endured for 13 years. I relaxed and tried to allow my husband to grieve his job loss and come to grips with our new situation. I immediately sought counseling. I am still on a waiting list, but just the act of calling to make an appointment relieved a great deal of stress. We leaned on family and friends to get through this period of initial shock.
What did help was sitting down calmly and attacking the problem systematically.
- We agreed to have weekly financial meetings. These meetings would help us to work together and keep me from feeling that I had no control over the situation. He would tell me how his job search was going and I would refrain from repeatedly asking him about it. I would keep him abreast of our income and expenses and provide a weekly financial report.
- We brainstormed a list of things we needed to do to keep our family afloat financially, medically, and emotionally. When the list was done, we assigned tasks for each of us to do to run the household. This gave both of us direction and purpose in taking our family to the next stage.
- We made it a priority to safeguard our physical health, our mental health, and our emotional health. We committed to eating healthy, taking daily walks, and doing yoga. As I mentioned, I called for counseling. We decided to keep some things, such as weekly skating (only $10 for me and the 2 younger kids), occasional movie rentals (under $3 per movie), and date nights (using coupons and 2 for 1 deals only) in the budget for now.
- We re-instituted the weekly family meeting to keep the kids informed. It is important to remember that a lay off affects everyone, down to the cat (though he doesn’t have as much to say).
We haven’t heard back yet about that job. Our future is still uncertain. Our lifestyle will change of necessity. But we will emerge stronger and with more life skills than we had. It will take all of us, working together, to build a new life.