Have you been retrenched, or lost your job?


Losing a job because of COVID-19 can be devastating. Clinical psychologist Dr Colinda Linde shares insight into the grieving process after losing a job and gives advice on how to assess your financial situation and think about your skills in a new way.

Dr Colinda Linde is a clinical psychologist and board member of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG). She’s previously spoken to Discovery about how to cope with the loss of a longer lockdown and three things employers must remember when letting people go.

In this podcast, she talks about what to do if you’ve lost your job.

Listen to the podcast:

Grieving the loss of a job

Dr Linde says it is normal for anyone to go through stages of grief when they’ve lost a job. It usually starts with shock, denial and then, bargaining. “This is a horrible stage,” she says. “Maybe I should’ve agreed to that deadline, maybe I shouldn’t have said I can’t take this anymore. Keep an eye on it and if you find that it’s going on for more than two or three days and you can’t sleep or function because of this overthinking, please speak to somebody.”

The next phase is blame, which normally leads to anger. “I think we’re no strangers to how horrible this feels because this is an impotent anger. Maybe you know that it’s not personal; it’s because the people who employed you can’t afford to pay you. You know that this is bigger than everybody, but the anger is still there. What really helps is to get it out physically in a healthy way,” she says, adding that exercise and hobbies that involve doing something with your hands can help channel that anger in a productive way.

Then comes the sadness. “Please get support when this happens, even if you just need a hug because this is perhaps also an impotent sadness. You have to let yourself grieve.” Here’s how Dr Linde deals with sadness. “I’ll give myself about 10 minutes and I’ll sob, cry and shout and do whatever I need to for those 10 minutes. And once that’s over and I’ve got most of it out, I’ll feel much better and be able to move forward (to the final stage of acceptance).”

Be patient with yourself

Dr Linde shares advice on how to cope with the loss. “Be patient with yourself. It’s natural to be grieving, to go through these stages of emotional ups and downs, to feel unsure about your future,” she says. “If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide; if it’s too much or you’re finding for more than two weeks you cannot get out of bed or function, please do speak to your GP, a therapist, or someone close to you.”

“Try and stay as healthy as you can and not to be thinking too much. Try and move every day, make sure you stay hydrated,” she adds. “There are certain things we need to do, sleeping right, eating right, moving a bit, prayer, meditation, support, that kind of thing. And choose your news. It’s probably not the best time for you to be on social media and definitely don’t be too aware of the news.”

Assess your financial situation

“Take stock of exactly where you are financially and of any help for which you might qualify. Draw up a survival budget and try to get the whole family involved,” Dr Linde advises.

“It might be incredibly difficult to cancel entertainment debit orders at the moment because everybody’s stressed and at home, but this might be what you need to do. Rather keep your medical aid. Don’t cash in your pension,” she says.

Think about your skills in a new way

Once you’ve grieved and assessed your finances, it’s time to look to the future. “Spend time really thinking about what skills you have,” Dr Linde says. “Ask people close to you what kind of skills they think you have and then make a list. Your skills might be useful in a completely different industry. And, by thinking about yourself and what you have to offer in a new way, you can open up new opportunities for yourself.”

“Think of yourself in terms of your skillset more than the job or industry that you came from,” she explains. “For example, do you have an ability to connect with people, to entertain, do you have the confidence to speak to strangers?”

Once you’ve made a list of your skills, Dr Linde recommends doing research on what skills or industries will be needed after COVID-19. “What kind of skills do we think are going to be premium in the world after the crisis? And which of these skills could you spend time honing and refining?”

She recommends looking at free courses and e-books on Udemy, Coursera and Audible to help you hone your skills. “What small step can you take today to move you closer to that goal?”

You’re not alone

“Please remember, you’re not alone and there’s no need to feel ashamed,” Dr Linde concludes. “This pandemic is beyond anyone’s control, so reach out. Ask for help, take small steps. Do one day at a time and think about yourself in terms of your skills in a whole new way.”

For more advice, listen to Dr Linde’s podcast. You can also listen to more of our COVID-19 podcasts and visit the Discovery COVID-19 information hub for more insight on how to manage your life in the context of COVID-19.

All medical information found on this website including content, graphics and images, is for educational and informational objectives only. Discovery Health publishes this content to help to protect and empower all South Africans by promoting a better understanding of COVID-19.

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