Millions of people have lost their jobs as a result of this recession. You may be one of them. While the stock market has shown some positive movement, it’s unclear whether things will genuinely improve soon or if the rally we’ve seen is a false one.

So how does a person of faith deal with the loss of their job and not lose their faith?

In her landmark book, On Death and Dying, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified a model for receiving and processing the diagnosis of a terminal illness. Since the book was published in 1969 The Seven Stages of Grief has been recognized as a universal process we all go through whenever we receive bad news. Losing a job is a stressful event that triggers the same emotional rollercoaster as other types of losses. And yes, grieving is part of the process.

Each of us truly does grieve differently because we move through the stages differently and that movement may not be in a straight line. We may bounce around a bit between some of the stages and we may zip through one or two of them. The objective is to deal effectively with each stage and to work through them so we don’t get stuck in any one of them.

Shock. “What?” No matter how aware we’ve tried to be about our company’s financial health and our own job security hearing the words “…and we’re going to have to let you go…” still comes as a shock to some degree. We may be listening to what’s being said but it may be difficult for our brain and our ears to work together. After the meeting is over you may realize later you didn’t ask any of the dozens of questions you have. You may not even remember what exactly was said to you. It’s OK to go back and ask for clarification later.

Denial. “This can’t be happening to me,” is a common reaction and it often goes through your mind while listening to your supervisor explain the separation process. Ask for all the information about your separation in writing. Your company should have these documents prepared ahead of time. Make sure you get them so you’re able to review them later as your ability to focus improves.

Anger. “After all I’ve done for this place?!” It can be difficult to believe that after the tough projects successfully completed, the deadlines met, and other accomplishments, you suddenly find out your expendable. It hurts. It’s not fair. And we react with anger as we try to make sense of it and protect our battered ego. While your feelings are justified (and we can always find a reason to justify our feelings, can’t we?) anger is a dangerous emotion. As it wells up and spills over it can be easy for us to then lose control of our words and actions. Be very careful at this time. Even if you weren’t happy at your job you’ll want to obtain a good reference and be among those who are called back if the situation changes. People won’t remember that your anger was justified; they’ll just remember how angry you got. As a former recruiter I can tell you your anger can come out in a job interview and it doesn’t help you sell yourself to a future employer.
It’s also easy for us to be angry with God. You’re a nice person…a person of faith. How can He let this happen to you? Unfortunately we use earthly things to measure God’s love for us. He doesn’t.

Bargaining. “I’ll be a better person if you let me find a job, God.” As the search for a job begins and in some cases drags on you may find yourself trying to negotiate with the Lord in an attempt to get what you want. We’ve all done this at various times in our lives. Instead of promising to do something if God gives you what you want, try just doing what you promise. If it’s that you’ll go to church more often if He gives you a job how about just going to church more often no matter what?

Sometimes making an alternate offer to our employer may actually be a good idea. Offering to work a reduced schedule or even be available for projects or part time work can provide you with some additional income while you look for a new position. It can also demonstrate incredible flexibility and the kind of positive outlook that’s valued even if it isn’t accepted.

Depression. “Why have you forsaken me?” With newspapers full of stories about business closings, executive excess, and more job losses it’s easy to become emotionally overwhelmed by this economic crisis. Add to that stress of going on interviews and not being selected and it’s easy to hear the voice of negativity convincing you that you’re worthless and will never find a job. This is the most dangerous point of all and it can be easy to fall deeper and deeper into this black hole where we become paralyzed by our feelings of sadness.

God hasn’t forsaken you. Business and personal coach Duke Clarke points out that our definition of “prosper” and God’s are two different definitions. Duke says, “The biblical definition for “prosper” is to achieve what you set out to do as explained in Genesis when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son. So be sure to define your prosperous living in light of the richness of your whole life and not just based on income.” God loves you no matter what. Focus on and celebrate the simple, joyful pleasures we have every day.

Testing. “Please God let this work.” Perhaps it’s a re-training program you’ve qualified for, a temporary job you’ve gotten, or a consulting project you’ve been awarded. At some point you may dip your toe in a new pool of experiences, testing the waters of a new venture and a new way of working. It’s easy to be fearful at this point. As adults we’re quick to label less than perfect results as “failures” or “mistakes” when in fact it’s simply part of moving forward and learning something new. Sometimes we can get a bit frenetic in our testing, constantly trying something new without giving any one activity a chance to build up steam.

Acceptance. “I think this is going to work out.” Suddenly it begins to dawn on you that your new circumstances are full of benefits. Whether it’s having fun making meals together to save money, or growing closer by really discussing how to deal with the financial challenges, or discovering you really can teach an old dog new tricks, when you reach a point of accepting the new direction your life is moving things become easier as you swim with the tide rather than against it.

It’s easy to get caught up in any one of the stages before you arrive at acceptance. Worry can easily consume us. Being a person of faith doesn’t mean we won’t go through challenging and sad times. It means understanding that God is with us to guide and strengthen us as we maneuver around these obstacles. Just as a gem starts as a rock and must be tossed and tumbled to come out brilliant and beautiful in the end, our struggles do the same for us when faith and prayer become a part of our rejuvenation process.

Here are 5 practical things to do to help not to loose faith or heart in this time:

Take time. Give yourself time to feel the pain and sadness of what you’re experiencing. Review the separation details your company provides and investigate all of the company, state, and federal benefits due you. Many people discover this is really a gift in disguise. Think about what you didn’t like about your job and reflect on what you’d most enjoy doing now. How can you make that happen?

Take care. Whether you want to admit it or not you’re in a fragile state. Eat healthfully. Get exercise. Pray often. Limit your exposure to bad news and to those of your friends and family who tend to focus on the negative. While sympathy is appreciated, constantly listening to variations of “ain’t it awful” will only reinforce negativity in your mind and heart.

Take action. Movement is rejuvenating and empowering. Develop a schedule and stick to it. Set a timer and focus chunks of time on your job search. Take a 15 minute break to do some simple task like laundry, then set the timer again and do more job search work. Research companies, find training programs, write cover letters.

Give to others. No matter what’s happening to you there are others who have it even worse. You’ll soon have learned quite a bit as you navigate the forest of the job search process in your area. You can give productive advice to others in your church who are newly arrived at this scary point. Speak to your pastor about creating a support group. Help at the local animal shelter where caring for God’s helpless creatures will be much appreciated and you’ll meet others who could help you in your search. Studies have shown animals have a soothing effect on people. It’s free stress therapy.

Talk to those who can help. God made us as social animals. Most of us need other people and talking through our problems helps us tremendously. Find those willing to listen who don’t just provide a sympathetic ear but who are able to give useful advice, direct you to resources, and help you smile.

These are scary times as we all are impacted by this economic crisis. Worrying and obsessing only help us to get trapped in the tangled mess of the stages of grief. It’s also inconsistent with being a person of faith. We must balance recognition of the reality we’re in with taking action guided by the Holy Spirit and belief that God’s hand is always guiding us. We’re really not in this alone.

Author's Bio: 

Winnie Anderson publishes The Mustard Seed, a twice-monthly ezine that shares information and tips to connect your faith to your work life. Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager and Lead Like Jesus calls her ebook "...provocative and reflective." Get a fr*ee chapter to Faith From 9 to 5: How to Overcome the Seven Deadly Sins and Live Your Faith at Work when you subscribe to The Mustard Seed.