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How To Help Your Spouse Through A Layoff

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Since I’m not participating in the recession, I don’t often blog about its impact. I’m not ignoring it, but focusing on negative things only magnifies them and their effects. Conversely, focusing on positive things empowers you to take control of the things you can, and begin to change things for the better, one step at at time. Even so, statistics released last week by the federal government show the economy lost 125,000 job last month.

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It also showed that, while women gained some ground, sadly, the unemployment statistics for men remain largely unchanged. And I cannot ignore the emails and phone calls I get from people who are hurting because of the economy. Most who contact me are women whose life plans originally included focusing on raising children while their spouse worked outside the home. Many are sobering up to the reality that they may have to change this plan as their spouses deal with long-term unemployment or underemployment, or working under the constant threat of a pink slip. I am personally familiar with what it’s like to live with this kind of uncertainty.Several years ago, my life plan was interrupted when my husband was laid off from a well-paying job. Our household income was cut by 60% in one day. It was tough, but we got through it. In my experience, there are at least six ways a wife can positively impact her husband and family in situations like this.

  1. Allow time for grieving. For many people, losing a job is like losing a close friend or family member. This is especially so for men who take great pride in their work, and believe that their value is closely related to (or even dependent upon) status earned on the job. Allow him the space he needs to grieve and come to terms with the great loss and sadness he is feeling.
  2. Don’t bring home job applications. The last thing a newly unemployed person needs is you beating him over the head with job opening announcements. While you may be anxious to quickly replace his income, you can do more harm than good by constantly “helping” him find new opportunities. If he asks for help finding a job, pull out all the stops. Otherwise, lay low on this one.
  3. Affirm his intrinsic worth. Corporate America leaves much to be desired when it comes to handling layoffs. The often unceremonious process can be debilitating, even humiliating, and it can have lifelong adverse consequences. One of the most important things you can do is let your husband know that you are in his corner. Confirm that you consider him to be a valuable part of your family, whether or not he has a job. Make sure he knows you love him and are in it for the long haul with him, for better or for worse.
  4. Apply for benefits. The depression that often follows job loss can be so overwhelming that everyone forgets to take advantage of federal, state and company benefits that may be available. Encourage your spouse to call his former employer’s human resources department to take full advantage of assistance that may be available for things like extended health benefits, career counseling, severance, unemployment compensation and job placement services. If your spouse is too depressed to handle this, try to do it yourself, as the passage of filing deadlines can foreclose future opportunities.
  5. Don’t let him wallow. While time to grieve is important, you must do what you can to discourage him from allowing depression and sadness to prevail for a long period of time. Discourage any temptation he may have to withdraw from friends and relatives. Insist on enjoying time together as a family outside the home, and on spending time with good friends who can provide support and encouragement. Take advantage of the time you have to visit local landmarks, museums, beaches, parks and other free or low cost entertainment options. The longer negative feelings overwhelm your situation, the longer it takes to bounce back.
  6. Assess your options. As you go through this process, it will be critical that you assess your own options as a wife and/or mother. How is this going to change your approach to your future? Should you meet with your financial planner to make changes to how you handle your money? Should you consider getting a job? Should you step up your efforts to start or expand your own business? Should you hire help with the children to reduce your stress level? Should you consider personal, marriage and/or financial counseling for yourself and/or your spouse? As you explore how your life plan will change, find good times to discuss your thoughts with your spouse.
  7. Pray. Through all of the challenges and uncertainty, perhaps nothing will keep you centered and grounded, and reduce your stress level, as much as prayer. Prayer encourages you to focus on the big picture rather than on the immediate problems at hand. As you seek and receive guidance and direction for how to proceed, you will be strengthened knowing that you are not alone — that a power greater than yourself and your problems is in ultimate control of the situation.

Look, coping with uncertainty is challenging in any situation, especially where finances and job security are concerned. It makes crawling under and rock and/or pointing fingers of blame look like appealing alternatives. But it’s times like these when husbands and wives need to hold onto one another and weather the storm together. It’s not easy, but the result is a rugged and richly textured relationship that lasts a lifetime.

Please feel free to forward the link to this post to a friend who may be encouraged by it.

Question: What did I miss? What suggestions and encouragement can you offer?

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