How to comfort people who have lost their jobs


People spend most of their days on their job, so when they get laid off, they face a huge adjustment in their lives. Not only that, but being laid off makes people lose their self-esteem and self-worth.

So how can friends and family help the recently unemployed cope with their disappointment? Aside from the hugs and the well-wishes, there are several ways people can offer comfort.

The first tip is to offer genuine comfort, and to not make the situation one-sided. Some people might think it's a good idea to say, "I hate my job so much that I wish they would have canned me," since it would make the recently laid off person feel better about their situation. But Ann Brenoff, columnist for the Huffington Post, warned that this approach is wrong. 

"No, you are not really envious of the person who lost their job, so don't say you are," she said. "Losing a job stinks, except in rare cases. Get real."

What people should do instead is help people see their situation in a different light. People oftentimes define themselves based on their jobs, so to lose it means to lose a part of their identity. But if they realize they are more than just the title of their jobs, they can accomplish a great many other things.

"Help your friend put a fresh spin on their situation. Talk about how excited you are for all the new possibilities they have, point out they now can pursue a job that they really want, or return to school and get some training in a totally different field, or finally write that book," said Brenoff. "And remind them that one door closes and another opens only for people who believe it will."

Lastly, people should refrain from suggesting they pursue job leads that are beneath their capabilities. There will always be job openings available, but if it's in a different pay scale or field, Brenoff urged people to just keep their mouths shut.

"While your intentions may be laudable, the message is likely: 'You must be desperate,'" she said. "Although there may come a time when her job-hunting status changes to 'any port in a storm,' that is not the case immediately."

Meanwhile, Nancy Molitor, a public education coordinator for the American Psychological Association, told the New York Times that friends and family should go easy on the pity because it would make the unemployed feel that their situation is hopeless.

"No one wants to feel like they're a victim on a regular basis," she said. In doing so, "you're putting yourself in the strong position, and the other person feels weaker and weaker."