Good Bye Co Worker
Closure is a buzz word when the topic of grief comes up. What is it, exactly? The short definition would be that closure is having an ending, a finality. Burial leaves no question in anyone’s mind that life will go on without the deceased. But quite often, closure isn’t possible.
During the World Wars, many soldiers were buried overseas. Despite military notification, those families were left with open ended grief. There is always the thought in the back of their minds that their loved one may miraculously re-appear. Hope lingers that records were mixed, mistakes made. Those families had no closure, and it’s torture.
That’s part of the reason for the herculean effort after 9/11 to identify any DNA available.
That’s part of the reason the Viet Nam Soldier’s Wall is such a healing place.
Other instances may also deny a family closure, such as runaways or kidnap victims. We all witnessed recently John Walsh’s statement after his son Adam’s remains were found, so many, many years after his disappearance. His family could finally bury their son, finally have peace.
Alzheimers disease delays closure for years. The person we knew is no longer with us. Yet the physical presence remains, transformed into a stranger needing our care and attention. This is also torture. The family grieves and nurtures, all at once. It wreaks havoc on the emotions.
The same confusion is currently happening in workplaces all over the country, indeed, all over the world. One day your co-workers are there, the next day they are not. They are not physically dead, but no longer present, no longer a part of your daily life. Some of us spend more time with co-workers than we do with family, so the loss is devastating. While we don’t have the same sentiments toward co-workers as we do family, the lack of closure reaps the same effect.
How do we handle it? Here are suggestions for those terminated, and those left behind.
Sometimes, for security reasons, a person is notified of a job loss when they are given a box for their belongings, and escorted to the parking lot. The first reaction is shock. The people still at the workplace should take time to talk. If management denies this, all of you should meet outside as soon as the day is over. Express your feelings. Talk about your fears of being next, your insecurities. Eventually, conversation will come around to wishing something could be done for the person who left. There is. At least get a card that all of you can sign. Try to be upbeat, rather than maudlin. The person that left needs to know you enjoyed working with them, and wish them all the best. Sending flowers doesn’t seem appropriate here, since no one is ill or dead. Grocery or gas gift cards to get them through a rough time would be nice. Setting up a time and place for all of you to meet once to commiserate is good. Phone numbers can be given. But work friendships don’t usually translate to personal relationships, so there shouldn’t be much expectation there. A personal note, or another card can be sent a week or so later, so the person knows s/he is being thought of and wished well. The most powerful thing anyone can do for that person is pray, and you are heartily encouraged to do so.
Sometimes there is advance warning that a person is being let go. This makes for an awfully awkward time. Human nature being what it is, a gap will form between the one leaving and those not. Try to curtail this if you can. All of you need support right now, not isolation. But this will require bravely admitting feelings on everyone’s part. Of course you don’t know what to say or do. And that should be the first thing to admit openly. Let the outgoing employee dictate how they want things handled. Try to do some small going away gesture. Ignoring the reality will be hurtful to all. Open communication, empathy and encouragement is what is needed. Give it as freely as you can, whether you are the one going or the one staying. Tears are acceptable. Expressing anger is okay, in moderation. Bridge burning is definitely not recommended. And, again, you may be surprised at how welcome the prayer idea may be at this time. Go for it. But start with a simple statement. “It’s been a pleasure working with you. Good luck.”
If you are the one receiving the bad news, leave your contact information with co-workers. They may have trouble getting it after you leave. They may have job contacts to share, and you can’t leave any stones unturned.
Recognize that when the shock wears off, grieving begins. This is a tremendous loss. Insecurities bubble to the surface. Anger rears its ugly head. Find emotional support immediately. If family can’t be there for you, go somewhere where people understand your pain, and can walk through it with you. If you are not part of a faith community, now is the time to seek one out. If you do have a church family, fight off the desire to stay away. Isolating yourself is the worst thing you can do at this point. Follow any and all leads to possible employment, no matter how far from your field it may be. Once back on your feet, job hunting can be better approached. Your immediate need for survival gets first priority. Applying for unemployment assistance is a lot of work, takes tremendous energy you don’t have right now. Force yourself to do it. Get help doing it if you need to.
The important thing to remember is not to take this personally. We are all caught up in great national upheaval. Your boss would probably opt for root canal rather than lay off employees. It’s a rough time in our country. The country has been here before. Just talk to anyone who lived in the 80s, or during the Great Depression. And read the history. It all does work out, but it takes time. We all have strong survival skills, great strength, and will come through this. We may come out better than before. We will all learn something. We will all have to work together.
The hardest thing to watch are the reports of CEOs reaping benefits from other’s misery. No, there may not be anything we can do about it. Our faith tenets dictate that we pray mightily for these people. And bear in mind, they all have to answer to a Higher moral Power at some point, so let God handle it. Don’t give them any of your precious energy, they don’t deserve it.
Put your best foot forward. Adjust. Change. Love. Find joy. Count your blessings. There will, at some point, be
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