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  • Writer's pictureBountiful Bridge

The Five Stages of Getting Let Go.

Updated: May 6

Just a quick scroll through LinkedIn, and you will inevitably read a post about someone who has lost a job or got laid off. There are plenty of articles and recommendations about how to find your next job, along with networking recommendations and updating your resume. Yet, what about the emotional stages that you go through when you lose a job? Through personal experience and diving deep into uncomfortable conversations with others, I have discovered that there are indeed stages of Getting Let Go, very similar to stages of grief. In fact, grief over losing a job is very real.

No one ever wants to go through this hard part of their journey, but unfortunately, many of us will do so during our careers.

Have you been let go from a role you valued and felt dedicated to? Has this happened to you recently? If so, maybe the following scenarios will resonate with you.

No one ever wants to go through this hard part of their journey, but unfortunately, many of us will do so during our careers.

The message comes across Slack. Or perhaps you get the Teams Meeting invite from HR. Maybe it’s the dreadful phone call.

However it happens, it’s happening.

Your heart begins to race, along with your mind. You start to question every task, every communication, every project, every performance review.

You begin to question yourself.

Don’t deny it. You will begin to question yourself, no matter your achievements, seniority level, or accomplishments. It impacts you.

Even before you have been told that your role is being eliminated, or you’re being let go, or you should part ways, or damn, it’s harsh, but you’re being fired…you enter the 1st stage of Being Let Go. It’s called Questioning.

“What did I do wrong?”

“Who did I piss off?”

“Where did I fail?”

“Why is this happening to me?”

“When did this start to go wrong?”

Questioning keeps you rattled and on edge. It keeps you from going to sleep at night or can wake you up in a cold, heart-pounding sweat.

Then, it happens.

Whatever way they choose to inform you, no matter how prepared you are, it sucks. Your head will spin, or you’ll feel anxious. Anxiety attacks are common but hold on. Ride this wave of very high emotion. It won’t last forever.

And just like that, it’s done. It’s like ripping off a bandage, but very slowly and verrry painfully.

Questioning keeps you rattled and on edge. It keeps you from going to sleep at night or can wake you up in a cold, heart-pounding sweat.

During this time, I recommend doing what makes you feel better for the rest of the day. Think of it as a sick day, a day of rest, or a day to just be. It’s easier said than done, but you are likely in a fragile or highly emotional state, so try to focus on taking care of yourself.

You will likely wake up one morning, perhaps a workday morning, in semi-shock that you no longer have a work routine. Your days seem so different, and perhaps the foreignness of the day leaves your head spinning once again.

This is the 2nd stage - Disbelief.

You can’t believe this happened. It doesn’t feel real. Brain fog is common when you experience this stage, along with more bouts of overthinking.

Sit with this for a while, but don’t dwell on it. Try to reframe your thinking.

Phrases like the following can help:

“I can’t believe this happened, but I can figure out a new path.”

“This feels so odd and uncomfortable, but I am ok. I will be ok.”

It’s important not to ignore your thoughts, but it’s critical not to dwell on your negative emotions. Remember, emotions are very powerful, but they are temporary.

Then, trust your gut and ask yourself, “What would I do on my day off?”

Perhaps go for a walk, meet a friend for coffee, work out, clean, or organize something. The point is that you absolutely have to do something.

And then, make a special cup of coffee or watch a show. Take these first few days with as much ease as possible because your mind is likely still overwhelmed.

The point is that you absolutely have to do something.

If you feel like jumping on the job search machine in the first few days, do it, but do so with caution. Give yourself some time and distance to process what happened. If you react too quickly, things may not turn out as you hoped.

Why do I say that? Well, at some point, you will reach Stage # 3—Anger.

Oh, you will feel this stage with all the emotion that comes with it.

So, if you react too quickly, you may carry this negative emotion into your personal relationships or your next career move. Make no mistake—you need to go through this stage. It is overwhelming, moving, and unbelievably hard, but it must happen.

If you feel like jumping on the job search machine in the first few days, do it, but do so with caution. Give yourself some time and distance to process what happened.

Why does this have to happen? You have likely dedicated a good portion of your life to your career, only to feel like you are falling or on unstable ground.

You worked hard, put in the effort, and likely went above and beyond, and still, you stand here now without a job at a place you were dedicated to. It stings more than anyone else will realize.

This may not be what you want to hear, but sit with it. Feel it. Deal with it. Whatever thoughts are flooding through you, making your heart and mind race, you have to feel them. Don’t push them away.

This is where activities such as running/exercising, writing it out, talking to someone, and really thinking through the situation are crucial.

Feeling this anger will not happen once and then go away. You may feel this stage for quite a while. Just ride the wave.

Within the first few weeks of not working, you will feel this over and over and over again. Or you may take that next position, and when you hit your first rough patch at that job, it may feel bigger than usual. That’s overlapping anger from what happened. You may feel you don’t deserve this current challenge because you should be in your old role. You may feel less patience with those close to you because you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, and perhaps less than.

Help yourself by owning your anger and identifying where it’s coming from—your job loss. Your anger is justified and necessary for you to move forward.

The Anger stage is very powerful, and for a time, it may overlap or feel like the 4th stage, which I creatively call Whiplash.

What is Whiplash?

Well, it can only be described as a combination of intense emotions like depression, embarrassment, waning confidence, anxiety, frustration, fear, and impatience. At any given time, you may feel any and all of these emotions about your current situation or finding a new role. I mean, hello, I call it Whiplash for a reason!

“No one will want to hire me because I got let go.”

“I am not telling anyone that I got let go. What will they think of me?”

“I’m not going to apply for that role. They won’t think I’m the right fit.”

“Why is my heart racing, and I feel like I want to crawl out of my skin?”

“What is going on? Why won’t someone hire me?”

“Why won’t someone just see that I need a job!”

“This has gone on long enough. Come on, I need a new job already!”

It will be hard if this happens during an interview or professional discussion. You will feel off your game and perhaps believe everyone else can see it. But I promise you, they can’t. Even if they pick up on something, everyone gets nervous in interviews or discussions at one time or another. Try to let that worry go if it happens.

The most important thing to focus on is that these intense emotions can override your logical thinking if you let them. So, again, try to reframe your thoughts or run a defense against the negative thoughts.

“I will find a role that is the perfect fit for me. I have been hired before and will be hired again.”

“I will be selective in who I tell about my situation, but I am not my career. I am smart, strong, and resilient.”

“Perhaps this role isn’t the best fit for me, but I will find one that will lead me to the next level in my career.“

"I am feeling very anxious right now, but I will get past this. These feelings and emotions are temporary.”

“Finding a new job is challenging and can take time, but I will find something new.”

“This is temporary. I will find the right role for me.”

“All good things take time. This seems like it is taking a long time, but I will know when the right role presents itself. It will happen.”

I should mention that Whiplash will ebb and flow, sometimes like a stream and other times like a raging river. This is especially true if it does take some time to land your next opportunity.

It gets uncomfortable to keep explaining that you aren’t working at the moment. Stress kicks into gear while watching your savings account dwindle, so depression and anxiety can set in. Perhaps you get passed by for a role you thought was a sure thing, which can plummet your confidence for the next opportunity. That, of course, can lead to frustration and then a spiral into fear, which can lead to worry about how things aren’t happening fast enough.


Believe me when I tell you to hold on. Heck, listen to the Wilson Phillips song from the 90s if you have to, but please, hold on.

Why? Because one random day, you will realize that you aren’t in that meeting that you thought was a waste of time. You will understand why you aren’t still with the same company that you dedicated so many hours to. You will see your freedom. This is stage # 5.

Now, this looks different for everyone. It could be transitioning into a similar role at a different company. It could mean realizing you want to go back to school, try something new, or break out of a specific mold and try something on your own. The point is, one day, you will find your freedom.

Fear locks us into believing the worst. When, in all actuality, what seems to be the worst scenario turns out to be the best thing for us to GROW through. Not go through. Right now, it may feel like something is being “done to you” when, in all actuality, it is something that is moving you forward and allowing you to grow.

You and Wilson Phillips need to Hold On to that.

In the end, it happened. You were let go. You will go through all or many of these stages, but please hear me when I say this:

I’ll cross this bridge with you. I promise and mean it.



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