"I've got bad news," my husband told me over the phone as I was driving down the Massachusetts Turnpike. "I just came out of a meeting and they laid off my entire group." I pulled to the side of the highway and listened in disbelief as he told me that his job of the last 10 years was gone.
Coincidentally, I had just given a talk on fostering resilience at a local school. It's easy to talk about, but hard to put it into practice, especially when you feel sucker punched.
Our biggest concern was how our three boys would be affected by the change. They get upset with me when I forget to tell them about a orthodontist appointment. How would they cope with their world becoming less predictable?
Telling the kids
"Will we have to move?" my 8th grader asked.
"Can we tell other people?" my 10-year-old wondered.
"Will dad be okay?" they both asked while petting our spaniel, Lavender, for comfort.
Two days after we got the announcement, we drove to our Asperger son's college, 45 minutes from our home, to share the news in person.
"Now I have to add this to my list of things I'm worried about, " he said.
"This isn't your worry to carry," we answered while hugging him.
Once he understood that his life would largely remain the same his heart rate dropped back to normal. We shared our plan for managing the change and talked explicitly about how we would cover different types of expenses. By the end of our talk he felt ready to return to his dorm,
"I really love being with you and I'm sorry that you got laid off," he said as he hugged us goodbye.
What will help us be resilient?
- We'll connect with family and friends: Dealing with job loss is isolating. It won't help to stay silent. Many other families go through unemployment. We want to hear their stories. We don't feel ashamed or alone.
- We'll focus on strengths: Even though we feel a bit beaten down at the moment, we know we have capabilities to help us through. My oldest son is an insightful writer and lover of dogs. Jed's an accomplished research scientist. I wrote Parenting without Panic and have a job. Our youngest boys are compassionate and full of joy. We are not defined solely by our current crisis.
- We'll try to develop healthy coping mechanisms: I'm a big fan of Trader Joe's Sea Salt Caramel Gelato when times get tough. But it's not my only coping mechanism to deal with stress. Everyone in the family needs one or two healthy strategies they can use to feel calm. For me that's photography. For Jed it's riding his bike. Long walks with Lavender help us all.
- We'll ask for help: Jed's colleagues have been providing contacts. He has reached out to his professional network. And he'll continue to meet with people until one of the leads works out.
Will we be resilient? Stay tuned...
We’re just at the start of our job-search odyssey. I hope each of us will become resilient. We’re simultaneously anxious and hopeful.
At least we know we’re not alone.
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