Last week was one of “What to say when” for me. I found myself three times wondering how in the world I could console someone, or support them in difficult situations. One was the loss of a Dad to suicide, another was the trauma of a boss who was making life impossible and the third was someone who needed my support because of a diagnosis of cancer which is very frightening.
All three times my heart ached but I feared the right words would fail me when they needed me to say things that would be supportive and helpful.
In three blogs I have tried to address these difficult times we all find ourselves in with a little insight I have gained. If you have further insights and special things you like to share with people in these circumstances please feel free to do so in the comments.
(You may read the two previous blogs in this series at What to say when…someone dies, and What do I say…when someone is diagnosed with cancer?)
The beginning statement of advice for all three of the situations I encountered might be the same. “If you can’t offer anything hopeful then remain silent.” Good advice for many situations I’m sure.
Job loss, like the loss of health and the death of a loved one, pushes people into that horrible place called “Grieving”.
The dictionary.com definition for “grief’ says, “
With a job loss, like other losses people are tempted to say things like, “there are lots of other jobs out there”, or “you can get another job”. While those sentiments may be true they are cruel words to someone who has worked hard and invested long hours and years of their life in a job. In this situation, as in any situation where someone is grieving, avoid euphemisms. If you can’t find your own heartfelt words then don’t use someone else’s trite phase.
Adding to the horror of this situation is the difficulty of the job market, the agony of resumes and interviews, the possibility of having no income and the loss of friendships and contacts that go with job loss. It is a huge problem which should not be trivialised.
In the case of my friend who was facing a job loss, she had the added issue of lawsuits for wrongful dismissal and the impossibility of dealing with someone whose manner was bordering on psychopathic. Those types of people are experts at the art of tearing down someone’s self-esteem and of ruining not only future job prospects but also the reputations of the people they frighten out of the workplace.
What to say in this situation might include things which are going to increase someone’s confidence in tangible ways. Remind them what they are good at. Remind them of accomplishments. Let them know you are available to help. If you have some good experience with a similar situation or you have read good articles share them. Be careful not to be too pushy with encouragement too quickly. They may not be quite ready to hear it.
Asking what sort of things you can do to help if you are close enough to actually do that might be good. It’s not just people who have lost loved ones that need the occasional casserole or visit with a glass of wine. Flowers might even help.