How to Cope After the Unexpected Loss of a Career

man sitting on slab holding pencil while looking on his right side

Ending a career without adequate preparation can be traumatic, especially if unexpected circumstances such as catastrophic illness terminate normal life patterns. It is particularly difficult when the affected person has little or no family. But there are ways to manage such significant changes.

Maintain Good Friendships and a Support Network

Too often, friends and former colleagues never consider the trauma frequently associated with career terminations. Like most workers in the community beehive, they go about their daily tasks. It is important to reach out to those who are close, even if only for support. It is also important to express thanks to the people that haven’t been forgotten, even if it is only the sending of a birthday or holiday greeting.

Pursue Hobbies and Interests Left “On-Hold” During Years of Work

It is important to remain lucid and as active as possible. Hobbies and special interests, depending upon financial abilities, can fill voids created by unexpected career termination. These include:

  • Gardening and other “outdoor” work
  • Read and writing
  • Keeping a journal
  • Modeling
  • Travel, even if only day trips
  • Learning new skills such as creative cooking
  • Taking classes at continuing education institutions like Community Colleges
  • Volunteering at community service projects
  • Tutoring students

Getting regularly comfortable in front of the television should be avoided at all costs. Establishing poor daily substitutes will hasten distress and, according to health care professionals, may affect recovery. Everyone, including the disabled, can contribute to their community.

Eat Properly and Maintain Adequate Sleep Patterns

Career terminations, especially due to unforeseen illnesses, can trigger depression that affects eating and sleeping. Because the “regular routine” has ceased to exist, there is a temptation to stay up later and sleep longer in the mornings. Frequently, those who suffer will turn to medications in order to maintain sleep.

Cleaning the House and Redecorating

Positive attitudes prevail when reminders of the past career are eliminated. This can be as simple as moving around furniture or replacing decorations. Some people move to new residences in anticipation of the next life phase, preferring not to be reminded of a lost career.

Do Not Grieve and Maintain an “Upbeat” Attitude

Grieving over a lost career affects every aspect of daily living: people lose the desire and motivation to accomplish the very basic tasks of everyday life. This can be as simple as not vacuuming a carpet. In most communities, “senior services” are part of on-going checks by local departments associated with Medicaid and Social Security-Disability benefits.

Life Changes One Day to the Next but Offers New Opportunities

Catastrophic illness can hit without any warning. Even a stroke or heart attack has the potential to end a career or significantly slow down the career track. Such changes, although traumatic, can be open doors to new opportunities. Motivation, strength of character, and a “reality check” based on a positive attitude will enable people to enter another phase of life successfully.

This writer went from teaching university classes as an adjunct to a two-week hospitalization followed by medical advice not to work again. Another hospitalization followed and there will be more to come. Although the initial temptation is to give in to depression, all of life’s phases must be viewed within the overall context of being a vibrant part of the community. Catastrophic life changes can be overcome when key variables that include a support network are maintained.

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