Part of my purpose in life, I believe, is to help others have the best lives they can. I want the best for them. I can see their potential. I want them to be happy and content today, right now. Unfortunately, it is not possible to dictate when someone’s life will turnaround. Sometimes it is due to outside circumstances. Usually, it is due to what that person is capable of doing today at this time.
I don’t remember where I heard this, but I heard love described as Letting Others Voluntarily Evolve. Makes sense doesn’t it? A two-year-old is not ready for university level physics. In time, maybe, but not today. The concept is very easy to understand. Accepting in it certain circumstances is not.
When I am working with individuals who are just laid off, it is understandable that they are going through the seven stages of grief. They are in denial that they have been laid off. They are angry that it happened after all they have done for the company. They are depressed that it happened. Eventually, they come to accept that they need to seek other employment or maybe retire. It is difficult to see someone go through this process, but I try to give them the supportive space they need. What is more challenging, is when candidates do not make it to acceptance.
Some candidates can only see staying at their previous company. They do not want to accept the layoff happened and fight the reality that they need to move on. Other candidates can’t see a future. They are filled with hopelessness of finding something new and refuse to hear the truth of opportunities. Whether job seekers or others in our lives who are stuck, it can be hard to allow them the space to make through the stages of grief in their own time.
Truth is we can not force them. We can not make the process faster. We can not make acceptance come. We can not make this mental change for them. What we can do is hold space for them during the process, and to stay on our own side of the street.
To hold space for someone means to see the person and their circumstances objectively. It means to create an atmosphere without judgment. Holding space means creating mental and emotional space for that individual to process what they are going through. What is critical at this time is to provide them with a safe space to be angry, sad, raging, despairing. Whatever their emotion, before they can release it, they first need to feel it. It may not be pleasant to experience or watch, but it needs to be released – not justified, denied, ignored, or minimized. Like a tea kettle releasing steam, if the energy of the emotion is not released, the individual will burst.
While the affected person is going through their work, we have to be careful to stay on our side of the street. Although our heart may go out to them, it is not ours to experience. Trying to stop their pain or take their pain on our self, does not help anyone. Like a comfortable blanket, we can hold them and give them support, but we do not take on what is not ours.
If you have someone you care about who is in pain due to job loss or any other transition, do your best to provide them with a safe space to move through their pain and into the new.