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How to Help When Someone You Love Is Fifty and Out of Work

The Stages of Grief and Their Common Expression

Recognizing the stages of grief can be helpful to those who need to stay patient and supportive. When you hear statements like those listed here, you know that, as painful as the situation may be, your friend or family member is working it through. Rarely do people move through the stages in a linear, step-by-step fashion. Usually they bounce among them until they settle into acceptance.

  • Denial: “It isn’t really happening.” “They’ll see that the merger makes no sense.” “They’ll call me back as soon as they realize the importance of what I was doing.”
  • Anger: “After all I’ve done for them over the years . . .” “Who do they think they are?” “I want to kill them.” “IT’S NOT FAIR!!!”
  • Bargaining: “I’d do anything to get my job back.” “Do you think they’ll listen if I make them an offer?” “I’ll give them even more if they’ll only let me show them what I can do.”
  • Sadness: “I can’t imagine not seeing my team every day.” “I worked so hard for so long and now this.” “I feel like a piece of me has been cut off.”
  • Acceptance: “Hard times often lead to something better.” “It’s not something I would have signed on for, but it’s making me rethink my priorities and my career.”

During the process of grieving his job, it’s not at all unusual for a man to develop symptoms of depression. It becomes difficult for him to get to sleep or he sleeps far too much. Sometimes he wakes early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep no matter how hard he tries. His appetite is off. He feels worthless and hopeless. Even if he knows that the situation isn’t his fault, he may suffer acute shame. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to face his friends and co-workers again. He has difficulty concentrating. Making decisions seems overwhelming.

Well-meaning friends and relatives often get impatient with the process. Whether it is the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job, American culture seems to put a quota on how much grief is allowed. After a few weeks, the sympathy and support often stop and the criticism and advice begin. It’s not at all unusual for a person to be told to “snap out of it.” Friends and family want him to get over it and get on with the business of finding a new job. He will do that — eventually. But it is only when a person has gotten in touch with all of the stages of grief and expressed them in all of their complexity that he can even begin to move on to accepting the situation and making new choices.

How to Help When Someone You Love Is Fifty and Out of Work

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2020). How to Help When Someone You Love Is Fifty and Out of Work. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.