What to do if a partner loses a job

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The Independent Online
We've all heard tales of people losing their jobs only to pretend to their families and friends that nothing has changed by continuing to don suit and tie and set off on the daily commute. Think back, for instance, to those famous scenes in The Full Monty in which the factory foreman does just that. In fact, the masses of redundancies caused by restructurings and consolidations, such as those driving the battle to take control of National Westminster Bank, have done much to remove the stigma of losing one's job. But it can still be an extremely painful process - not only for the individuals concerned, but also for their partners and families.

In recognition of this, Sanders & Sidney, the careers consultancy that has extensive experience of outplacement, counselling and other means of managing job loss, has come up with a booklet designed to help all those involved in what will inevitably be a difficult time.

Partners: Coping with Redundancy is written by Sandra Anderson, a chartered occupational psychologist at Sanders & Sidney. She explains that "the emotional and physical wellbeing" of partners can be easily forgotten in the immediate aftermath of redundancy. Yet they will often share the emotions - ranging from relief, through shock, anger and depression - that afflict those who lose their jobs. Moreover, they may have additional feelings of guilt, helplessness and isolation. "It is important for them to recognise that this is not unusual and that support is available," she explains.

With this in mind, the publication starts out by likening redundancy to bereavement. Pointing out that research suggests that typical emotional reactions to job loss are much like those after a death in the family, it includes a chart setting out the likely succession of moods to enable readers to prepare for "the emotional journey" ahead.

The archetypal route starts with the individual feeling relieved, perhaps because the announcement ends a long period of uncertainty. It then moves on via shock or loss, denial and then anger, before the person begins to accept their predicament and progress. But the booklet stresses that - though these stages are typical - not everybody conforms to them. Some may swing back and forth between the various stages.

Ms Anderson urges those made redundant and their partners to be aware of the mood-changes that are likely to occur and not to become despondent if they occasionally take backward steps. Recognise that it is all part of "a delicate healing process," she advises, also emphasising that it is possible to come out the other side, often with "a new, more positive lifestyle".

Simply accepting the passage of fate will not do the trick, however. In just a few pages, she packs in tips on dealing with the children, other family members, and friends. She also offers suggestions for how partners can offer emotional support without becoming martyrs, and sets out rules for physical wellbeing - including regular and healthy meals, plenty of exercise and avoidance of any idea that drinking drowns sorrows.

Even for those who were not particularly attached to their job, losing it is important because it means losing income - and therefore threatening the family finances. But even here, Ms Anderson urges caution rather than rash decisions. "It makes sense to cut down on some things," she says, but it is also necessary to keep things as normal as possible. "Continuity at home is an important stabilising factor in this time of flux. Subject to financial constraints, ensure that your social life and leisure activities continue."

For more details on this booklet tel: 0171 663 6633; e-mail: westend@sanderssidney.co.uk.

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