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'I lost my job because of COVID-19. Here are 5 things I wish people hadn't said to me.'

If you aren’t one of the people who has lost your job during the coronavirus, you most likely know someone who has. Almost a million Australians have become unemployed since social-distancing measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 ramped up, according to the ABS. 

While being out of work never leaves you feeling fabulous, coupling it with the coronavirus pandemic has meant these changes are often unexpected and come with little to no warning. I know what it’s like to have the once-solid floor of your job dissipate from underneath you because it happened to me just weeks ago. 

And honestly, nothing and no one can prepare you for the emotional rollercoaster you’re about to hop on that you had no time to strap in for because you were so affronted when it happened. No matter how many times the smiley HR person tells you what you’re feeling and going through is normal. 

Side Note: Here are the horoscopes in isolation. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia

Especially when you don’t know what it’s like to go through life without a job. 

I’ve been in some form of employment since I was allowed to be (hello fourteen-and-nine-months). So when this is no longer the case you will feel grief and loss, to sadness, anger, disappointment, panic and fear, according to clinical counsellor and psychotherapist Julie Sweet.

“Several clients who have recently lost their jobs have disclosed in sessions that they feel a sense of failure and more so a loss of identity. All of which are valid and healthy responses naturally,” Sweet told Mamamia

But one of the most difficult points of job loss is trying to find a way to tell people. When you work in the media like I do, this sore point is more or less taken away from you because it’s up on websites faster than you can say ‘publish’. You typically don’t find yourself in a situation where almost everyone knows before you’ve told them yourself. 

And while those reaching out to you have good intentions, there are just some things you shouldn’t do or say to someone who has just lost their job. 

“Generally it’s often the discomfort of the person receiving the information about their friend or partner or relatives job loss that can cause them to become nervous, creating an urge to jump in and say anything that springs to mind to fill the silence and ease any tension, as opposed to reacting in a validating and measured way,” Sweet said. 

In an effort to avoid this, here are some of the things you should avoid saying and doing:  

1. Asking ‘what’s the plan?’ or ‘do you have something lined up?’

When you’ve just lost your job, there is no plan. You don’t know top from bottom and if you’re going through a redundancy, you’re doing all you can to absorb the information presented to you and make a logical decision at a time when your brain is telling you to do anything but be rational. If there’s something lined up, they will tell you. 

2. Suggesting ‘other businesses are booming’ or ‘you’ll get another job’. 

While some businesses are experiencing an uptick, now isn’t the time to tell someone you just need to look really hard for the opportunities because they are there. 

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While yes, there are some jobs and the listings on websites like Seek are improving month on month, employment prospects still aren’t great or anywhere near where they were before COVID-19. 

So while being optimistic is appreciated, making these comments doesn’t make you feel better about not being able to walk straight into a job interview the very next week. 

3. Telling them ‘you’ll be right, don’t stress’ or ‘these things happen, what can you do?’

You should steer clear of any dismissive or careless throwaway comments. Don’t belittle the situation by telling them other people have it worse off or are in tougher situations than the one you find yourself in either. 

What you’re going through is still hard and how you’re feeling isn’t relative to what others are going through. It doesn’t need to have a bearing on how you cope. 

“People require empathy, understanding and compassion, someone who is not only a sounding board to the distressed individual, yet a person who will actively listen and offer genuine support,” Sweet said. 

4. Making a joke like ‘now you’ll finally have time’ to do other things.

While it might feel like making a joke will lighten the mood and make the person laugh, it will most likely leave them feeling like you don’t understand the full extent of the situation or what’s happened. Jokes might be nice is a few months’ time when the person has had time to process the job loss but as a first reaction, flippant remarks aren’t the way to go. 

5. Expressing your shock on social media and not directly to the person.

Unless you’re the person who has lost their job, don’t post about it on social media or make it about you. 

It might be well-meaning but it can leave the person who lost their job feeling even more vulnerable and exposed, especially when it’s being broadcast to a network of people they don’t necessarily know themselves. Offer your support and help to the person in private instead. 

What you should say or do instead.

According to Sweet, the best thing to do is be authentic and name what comes up for you. 

“If its sorrow, name it, if it’s shock, again name it. Show the person confiding in you that you’re upset for their loss, that you share their despair and above all that you are willing to back them and provide them with comfort and support,” she said. 

“Demonstrate these qualities as so they know you’re a reliable point of contact who is consistent, truthful and grounding. Holding space for someone can be anchoring, especially if they’ve not had support like this offered to them in the past.” 

Asking how you can help is also another great way to handle the situation and show the person you genuinely care. 

“People are the experts in their lives so be confident in asking them what they need. Some people fear being overt so they skirt around the issue and don’t ask the person about how they feel relating to their suffering. So open communication is paramount,” Sweet said. 

Being direct with the person and offering tangible support will help them navigate through this uneasy time. 

“Be honest however when offering support, only do so if you’re genuinely able to ensure your words match your behaviour,” Sweet added. 

“Congruence builds trust and when someone loses their job, their faith in humanity and society as a whole can sometimes be distorted, which is expected, so it’s important to be dependable.” 

Valentina Todoroska is a freelance writer, editor and former primary school teacher. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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