Survivor’s Guilt

Apr 18, 09 Survivor’s Guilt
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sorrypal-300x294Today was my last day at work.  It went pretty much as expected; sadness, indifference, and surprising displays of emotion.  I posed a question to one of my former co-workers after he described the time he reported to work and was fired and sent home on that same day.  I asked him whether he would prefer that or the long, slow grind of the last week’s notice.  The furtive and pitiful glances from people not sure what to say or how to act around you.  I found myself constantly reassuring others that I was going to be okay…their survivor’s guilt demanded it.

In actuality, I could not wait for this last week to be over.  I wanted to call off every day; but I was determined to see this thing to the end and exit in a dignified fashion.  Then it dawned on me.  Of course, losing a job can be a traumatic experience.  Yet, there was more to it than that.  When people asked me what I was going to do now, I would answer, “Something else.”  Yet, they were strangely unsatisfied with this answer.  In our culture, what you do is so inextricably tied to who you are that many people equate losing a job with losing a part of your identity.  “I don’t know what John is going to do now that he can’t do (x) anymore.”

For those left behind, watching a bunch of people leave hat in hand is a disturbing reminder of their own expendability.  This battlefield is littered with the corpses of the just and unjust alike.  They want to know that you are okay so that God forbid, they know that they will be okay too…God forbid.  Naturally, the mix of remorse and trepidation can be disconcerting.  I imagine its like survivors of a zombie holocaust having to burn the bodies of their former friends and former family.

The newspapers have been discussing the growing mental health problems in the general populace.  People who have relative job stability are still worrying and fretting about losing their jobs.  Much of this can be attributed to an inadequate social safety net and concerns about the future.  However, I cannot worry myself over this and frankly, I am tired of repeating the same mantras.  I am good; and God forbid, you will be too…Losing a job is not the end of the world, just the birth pangs of a new one.

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  1. Truly beautiful and outstanding post. You capture the essence of what we all feel. I’m constantly updating my Twitter feed with job opportunities. If I can help, I would be happy to. Follow me @ Job_Security. Also, get my contact info from Ian and if you’d like, I can send you a copy of my book, “Creating Job Security Resource Guide.” Thank you for sharing what’s on your mind and on your heart. Thinking of you. Debra

  2. Thank you very much. There is an adjustment period, but I am well on my way to my next adventure. Thank you for supporting the site…anything you need from us just let us know.


  3. Great post. It’s really sad that in our society it’s this view of what you DO is who you ARE. Sometimes loosing a job will give you the opportunity to really sit down and analyze your life. Maybe it’s time to start learning or doing something new, what’s your passion.
    Often the challenging situations in our lives form our character. You have to make a decision: are you are going to be depressed and sorry for yourself or you are mowing forward to do something new, something better.
    Life is not over with the lost of your job, it may be little more difficult for a while but you still have all you need for a great future and that’s WHO you are, not what you do.

  4. FP
    That’s a great perspective to take. It’s a shame more people don’t view life like that. It takes time though. BTW, you have a great and informative blog site. I found some very valuable info on there. Keep up the good work. Take care.

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