Friday, November 28, 2008

It's a process, not an event

My last post, now more than a week old, detailed the initial reactions I felt after being laid off from a company for which I had worked for just over 20 years.

It is now 15 days since that day when I suddenly had the entire afternoon free (not to mention as many more days free as needed), and I finally feel able to add a bit more to what I posted on the 18th.

First, and most importantly, I have learned that the event on the 13th was merely the first part of a process which I am working through. In many ways, this process greatly resembles that described by the powerful work of Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross, M.D. published 35 years ago which was primarily thought of as a process for surviving the death of a spouse or other equally important loved one. Loss, whether it entails anyone or anything which was central to one's life, is going to involve some or all of these steps on the way to accepting what has taken place. It is only after working through these steps that one can begin moving on with life.

Denial-- I cannot claim to have spent much time here. When you wake up on a week day and realize you don't have to hustle so you are ready to leave for work on time, the 'denial' part is fairly easy to get though.

Anger-- This is a tough one to be done with, as there are lots of aspects to it. I was and I am still angry for the method by which this loss was delivered to me. I am still angry on behalf of friends who had devoted more than a decade to this company and lost their jobs the same day. I am angry that people who had been with the company for so short a period of time were given the power to blithely end the service of these employees who gave so much and expected only a check in return...and maybe just the slightest bit of loyalty and recognition. I still have plenty of anger to release before I can complete this process.

Bargaining-- Again, not a step which has really been part of this loss processing for me.

Depression-- Yep. For about a week after the day I lost my job, I was depressed enough that it made it difficult to do more than the most-basic tasks. Finally, a few days ago, I found myself with a bit more energy and a bit more motivation. In all seriousness, it takes time to crawl out of the pit it is easy to fall into. All one's energy is sapped, and everything turns gray and two-dimensional. Nothing is of great importance at this point but simply putting one foot in front of the other. The good news is, it is possible, that 'one step, then another, then one more...' technique. It works.

Acceptance-- Finally, I will need to accept the facts of the event and move on from it, carrying with me what I learned from it. I'm feeling good about where I am in this area.

So, to sum up, I feel as if I may need to find a gym with an old-fashioned punching bag, what is termed the "heavy bag"--a tall cylinder full of sand suspended by a chain from above which you can beat the daylights out of without any noticeable effect...well, except your hands will hurt like crazy and you will be completely exhausted. I have used one before, and there is little more-satisfying way to get out some pent-up frustrations or anger than pounding on a heavy bag.

And, I need to remain aware of how much I can do in one day and be able to accept that amount of effort for this day. Tomorrow, maybe there will be a bit more in the reservoir to tap, and the day after that, just a little more. Today, I accept what I have to work with. We'll talk about tomorrow when it has become 'today.'

That's one of the keys to acceptance: not just accepting what has happened, but accepting how much I can respond and recover today. Knowing that tomorrow will offer another chance to see how I am doing and how much I can move forward is comforting, but today is the only piece of this process I can work with. Right now.

I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to all who have left kind and encouraging words here and via email, to those I have spoken to in person and on the phone, and to my beloved Julia who has been fully supportive of me as I move through this. It is such a blessing to have lots of friends, and it is simply miraculous to be so lucky as know I am, to have Julia in my life and by my side.

I wish you all a wonderful and restful weekend. For those here in the United States, have a great Thanksgiving aftermath!


Sphincter said...

Rick, I was going to try to leave a thoughtful response, but my next door neighbor has begun his evening karaoke ritual. (He's really belting it out, too.) So, I'll just say this: Those lousy SOBs lost one helluva employee. I hope a crow shits on their cars, that a little old lady gives them The Evil Eye, and that a rabid weasel mistakes them for a love interest.

Lynilu said...

Rick, it sounds as if you have the K-R concepts down, but may I offer a small reminder? Don't forget that you will move in and out of these stages for a while. Just when we think we have "dealt with" something, we move on, and it sneaks up behind us and bites. it is normal, just part of that process.

I agree with Sphincter .... it is sad that you were somehow deemed dispensable. I guess in this economy, it becomes more frequent that these decisions are made, but that certainly doesn't make it hurt or bewilder or anger less. Hang tight. :)

Rick Hamrick said...

Sphinc--as to your next door neighbor, you should listen to this:

Thanks for your choice sentiments, too, Sphinc! No one can bring it quite like you can.

Rick Hamrick said...

Lynilu--You are certainly correct, and I have experienced bits of the "one step forward, two steps back" phenomenon already.

For me, looking to move ahead, generally (or, on average), is just fine. As I approach 55, I have come to recognize the days when I am best served to simply hunker down and read, or veg in front of the TV, or otherwise allow myself a completely free day with no responsibility or chores.

Those kinds of days can certainly be necessary when I'm working through another bout of depression over recent events. Still, the general trend is one of moving through this, and I'm able to appreciate that trend even if I have times when I pause to regroup.

Thanks for the reminder, Lynilu--the single best intention right now, for me, is to do my best. Some days, that will prove to be more outwardly noticeable than it will on other days.

Sphincter said...

Rick,I'm assuming that the song's performer is your lovely and incredibly talented daughter? Thanks for sharing!

Sylvain said...

Rick, you brought back a lot of difficult memories for me. I'm surprised that I had forgotten how angry I was ten years ago. It took a very long time to let go of that. Years. (The company had slashed 10 thousand employees because profits had dipped by 100 million dollars over the previous year. They were still making over 900 million a year!) See. I'm still angry.
I only remember clearly that I needed a LONG time to accept that I was no longer worker there. And only then was I mentally ready to move on. It was almost two full years before I worked again. Partially because I could, mostly because I needed the time.

Rick Hamrick said...

Sphinc--you are right. That's my eldest. Your mention of a karaoke-loving neighbor, only-too-clearly audible, left me no choice but to send you the link! I hope it brought a smile, even if you are still subject to your neighbor's performances.

Rick Hamrick said...

Syl-- I have three close friends, all of us scattered to the four winds, and all of us sharing the fact that we have been laid off. I honestly did not notice, until my turn came, that I was the last one to experience this event.

What is it about how business is run today which seems to make it impossible for one, a dedicated one, to make it to the end of their career with the company where they spent so much of it?

Every single one of the four people in question (my three friends and I) had devoted years of our lives to serving one company, some longer than others, but none under ten years.

And, still, the end was abrupt, sometimes insulting, and without any acknowledgment of the service already proffered.

Anger? You bet.

Angela said...


One great thing about the wide open spaces of Montana is that there's plenty of room to go out and scream your lungs out if you need to! Thank you for being so open in sharing this process. I don't understand why companies - if they feel they must lay off dedicated, long-time employees - can't do it with a modicum of respect. It would make a lot of difference and was one thing that hurt me so much when I was laid off in February. I hadn't been there nearly as long as you, but it was a small company and I felt really close to the people there.

Anyway, it's behind me and it will be behind you soon. Don't forget. There's a reason for this. You'll know what it is pretty soon. In the meantime, try and enjoy some of that hard-earned time!

Lisa said...


If you can't get your hands on a punching bag, good ol' goose-down pillows work quite well when it comes to releasing anger. Of course, this is not the kind of pillow fight to have with a beloved companion. This is where you and pillow become one with a very hard and sturdy object. Smash on to your heart's content or until there is no more pillow to be had. You'll know you're getting close to this moment when the feathers start flying and you can hear yourself laughing.

My profound empathies on the loss of your job. Obviously, it is in no way a reflection of you or the work you've contributed to this company for the past 20 years. It is indeed a sad and pathetic thing when an employer chooses to end a relationship in a non-compassionate way. For that and all that you're going through, I'm sorry. AND...I am extending my heart-felt congratulations. Huh? Yep, that's right because what's next for you just took a giant step towards showing up in the world and I'm excited to see what it is! I honor you and the process you're going through right now. Sending you love and laughter. Lisa (:

Rick Hamrick said...

Angela--thanks for stopping by and offering your insights. I know that the experience of being let go without there being a root cause (other than economic) is painful if you have worked a week or 50 years for a company. So, I also offer you my best bucking-up energy even as you feel you have moved on.

As an aside, I am really enthused to see you back in the saddle, offering your thoughts to those of us smart enough to stop by!

Rick Hamrick said...

Lisa, it is great to see you here!

Your advice, both in the practical sense of beating the holy feathers out of a down pillow, and in the higher, philosophical sense of recognizing the benefit in the seemingly dire circumstance, is advice I greatly appreciate!

What a perfect time for this, as my delightful wife is finishing up a book which offers wisdom for those in the thrall of disappointing situations.

What better endorsement of her work can there be beyond, "I lived it, it worked for me, and I'm glad to have had her wisdom at hand!"

For anyone unfamiliar with Lisa, I came to know her thanks to Nic Askew's project.

Check out Lisa's video:

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate how honest this post is, not glossing over any of the hard parts. I feel closer to you knowing we are both human and both susceptible to the same gamut of emotions when difficult transitions come along in life. My thoughts are with you. Hugs, K

Rick Hamrick said...

Thanks so much, Kelly.

jylene said...

rick-- it's great to hear how you are processing this situation as you go through it. i am a fan of elizabeth kubler-ross, and often refer to her theories when going through crises myself. as you know, i belong to a twelve-step program and i find that very helpful when learning to accept unacceptable situations. and i want to second what lynilu said about moving in and out of the stages along the way. even people with 20 years' recovery can find themselves right back at step 1 when a difficult situation comes up in their life. one last thought-- i think this quote came from Winston Churchill: "When you're going through hell, keep going!" take good care of yourself!

Julie said...

Wow, Rick. I am just catching up on my reading and I come here to find out the big news. Sphinc and Lynilu say it best here, but I am thinking of you and confident that this is one hurdle you will fly over.

Rick Hamrick said...

Jylene--it has proven helpful to me to type what I am going through, and I have enough really smart friends that I know it is a good idea to type it in a place they can read it when they are in the neighborhood (that would be right here on my virtual front porch).

Not only are my friends smart, they are also generous and willing to share their smarts!

Thanks for your part of this exercise, Jylene.

Julie--while I plan no flying over anything, as I am now brittle enough that the landings can prove problematic, I am still planning to either step over or walk around any barriers (or distract them so that I can sneak past) which present themselves.

Thanks so much for your encouraging words, ladies!

Deborah said...

Well...(insert prefered explitive here)...I'm sorry to hear that. Hang in there.