Book Review: 'Healing After Job Loss'

The loss of a job is a major life event. For most people, a job is more than a source of financial security; it's a huge part of their identity, their social life, and the structure of their days. Yet we tend to treat job loss as a solely economic problem. 

Grieving the loss of a job

In the book Healing After Job Loss: 100 Practical Ideas (Companion Press, 2010), authors Alan D. Wolfelt and Kirby J. Duvall address this larger sense of bereavement by applying grief therapy techniques for job loss. Rather than devoting lengthy chapters to the theory and application of bereavement counseling, Wofelt and Duvall have written the book as a series of 100 very digestible morsels. There is information about the grieving process here, but it is tucked away inside actionable ideas, so rather than reading about how to mourn, you are engaging in productive activities from the moment you first open the book.

Action-oriented advice

Each page explores a single concept in depth, with tasks like recognizing your loss, asking for help, and assessing yourself for depression or anxiety. The authors have distilled each concept to just a few bullet points of explanation, so you don't need to be a heavy reader to engage with the book. The explanation is followed by a "carpe diem" paragraph, which guides you toward an action. The "carpe diem" suggestions are often in the form of thought-provoking questions, so it's best to keep a notebook or journal with the book in order to follow through on the activities.

In addition to questions that might serve as journaling prompts, the book also includes practical suggestions. Under the heading of "Avoid Big Decisions," after very briefly explaining why this might be a bad time to make commitments or life-changing decisions, the "Carpe Diem" suggestion is this: "Is someone pressuring you to decide something, today? Ask for her time. Let her know that you are not in a place to be making big decisions right now." Actionable advice of this kind might feel like a tremendous relief to an anxious reader in a stressful situation. 

Coping with surrounding change

Healing After Job Loss does not contain in-depth advice about changing careers, hunting for a new job, or managing finances during unemployment. It is strictly devoted to the grieving process and helping the reader recognize and cope with their emotions surrounding the change. It is intended for people who are struggling with job loss and need help exploring and releasing their feelings. 

This book will be very useful in the hands of someone who is action-oriented, introspective, and willing to spend time exploring his or her responses to the questions. A counselor or an honest, intelligent friend who can help the reader avoid self-delusion would be very useful in this process. The book's many practical activities might also make it a useful addition to a job counselor or therapist's bookshelf. 

If you are giving this book as a gift, consider a blank journal as a companion item.