Grief comes in waves. It is something you can think at one moment you have accepted and at another moment overwhelm you entirely. It is something that is deeply personal and uncontrollable and can leave us feeling lost or alone. It can shock our sense of character and purpose. And just like the loss of a close loved one, the loss of a job is a big deal. For many of us, our job is a big part of our identity and self—especially if we have dedicated a substantial amount of time, energy, and effort to obtaining it and being good at it. It is not something to be taken lightly or diminished.
As an employment lawyer, I work with people every day who have experienced the loss of a job. I have personally seen how such a loss can impact their lives. It is deeply emotional. It can breed anger and resentment. It can be an incredibly difficult thing to accept for many reasons. These feelings are entirely justified no matter the situation. However, this feeling of loss, frustration, and unacceptance can be even more prevalent when it is not just the loss a job, but the loss of a job for an illegal reason. It is one thing if you are fired for actually doing something wrong. It is another thing entirely if you are fired because a protected characteristic (e.g. your race, religion, age, sex, national origin) or if you have been retaliated against for speaking up against illegal harassment or discrimination (i.e. you have engaged in some sort of protected activity expecting that you will not be targeted as a result).
If you are facing illegal discrimination or retaliation, you should consult with an employment attorney right away. But, in addition to seeking legal counsel, you should never discount the importance of seeking professional help to cope with the emotional toll such a loss has taken as well. Although there is always the possibility of getting monetary compensation for the mental anguish you may experience because of illegal harassment, discrimination, or retaliation, money doesn’t fix things. It can help by taking the burden off of financial stresses that may exacerbate the situation, but it cannot fix the root of the problem.
For example, think about losing a parent, spouse, or child. Would any amount of money make up for the loss? Would you trade millions of dollars just to have them back? I know I would. So, if you have lost a job, do not overestimate what a financial settlement will get you. It may give you some relief, but it cannot make you whole. In addition to seeking legal counsel, seek selfcare and support. It is only with both that the waves of grief will subside and allow true acceptance to emerge.