Losing Your Job or Your Partner: It’s Like a Breakup, but Worse

Losing Your Job or Your Partner: It’s Like a Breakup, but Worse

Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us, and sometimes those curveballs can leave us feeling blindsided, hurt, and uncertain about the future. This is especially true when it comes to two major life events: losing your job and ending a romantic relationship.

While these two events may seem like separate worlds, they actually share a surprising number of similarities. Both can leave us feeling lost, confused, and questioning our self-worth.

The Shock of the Dump

Just like a sudden breakup, losing your job often comes without warning. One minute you’re working hard and feeling secure, the next you’re being told to clean out your desk. It’s a jarring experience that can leave you feeling stunned and disoriented.

The Emotional Rollercoaster

After the initial shock, comes the emotional roller coaster. Whether it’s a job loss or a breakup, you’re likely to experience a whole range of feelings, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and fear. You may also feel a sense of loss and grief, as you mourn the loss of a significant part of your life.

The Hit to Your Self-Esteem

Both job losses and breakups can take a serious hit on your self-esteem. You may start to wonder if you were to blame for what happened, and you may engage in a cycle of negative self-talk.

The Importance of Support

During this tough time, it’s more important than ever to have a strong support system in place. Talk to your friends, family, or a therapist about how you’re feeling. Their support can be a lifeline during this difficult time.

What HR Can Do to Help

If you’ve lost your job, your HR department can be a valuable resource. They can provide you with information about your severance package, benefits continuation, and outplacement programs. They can also offer counseling services to help you cope with the emotional impact of job loss.

Tips for Coping with Loss

Here are a few tips for coping with the loss of your job or your partner:

  • Allow yourself to grieve. It’s important to acknowledge and accept your emotions, whether it’s sadness, anger, or confusion. Don’t rush to move on before you’re ready.
  • Seek support. Talk to your friends, family, or a therapist about how you’re feeling. Their support can be a lifeline during this difficult time.
  • Maintain a routine. Stick to a regular schedule as much as possible. This will help you feel grounded and maintain a sense of normalcy.
  • Take care of yourself. Eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly. Find activities that bring you joy and relaxation.
  • Set goals and plan for the future. Once you’ve had some time to grieve, start to think about your next steps. Set realistic goals for your job search or personal development.

Moving Forward

While job losses and breakups are undeniably painful experiences, they can also be catalysts for personal growth and development. By embracing the lessons learned and utilising the support available, you can emerge from these challenging times stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to navigate the future.

Embrace Change and New Opportunities

Losing your job can be a catalyst for exploring new career paths and pursuing long-held aspirations. It can provide an opportunity to re-evaluate your skills, interests, and goals, leading to a more fulfilling career direction. Similarly, a romantic breakup can prompt you to reflect on your relationship patterns and desires, opening the door to more compatible and fulfilling partnerships in the future.

Build Resilience and Self-Compassion

Experiencing job loss or a romantic breakup can foster resilience and self-compassion. By navigating the challenges and emotions associated with these events, you develop inner strength, adaptability, and a deeper understanding of your own needs and worth. This enhanced self-awareness can empower you to make more informed decisions and approach future challenges with greater confidence.

Cultivate Gratitude and Appreciation

Despite the pain and uncertainty they bring, job losses and romantic breakups can also serve as reminders of the positive aspects of your life. By taking time to reflect on what you are grateful for, you can shift your focus away from loss and towards the blessings you possess. This gratitude fosters a more positive outlook and can help you maintain a sense of hope and optimism.

Seek Professional Support

If the emotional impact of job loss or a romantic breakup becomes overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional support. Therapists and counselors can provide guidance, coping strategies, and a safe space to process emotions and develop healthy mechanisms for managing stress and grief.


Losing your job or your partner can be one of the most difficult experiences in life. But it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Many people go through these experiences, and there is help available.

By embracing the lessons learned, utilising the support available, and seeking professional help when needed, you can emerge from these challenging times stronger, more resilient, and better equipped to navigate the future.

Here are the specific research findings from each of the cited studies:

Journal of Applied Psychology: “The Psychological Impact of Layoff: A Meta-Analysis”

  • This meta-analysis of 51 studies found that job layoffs have a significant negative impact on employees’ psychological well-being. Laid-off workers reported experiencing a range of negative emotions, including sadness, anger, anxiety, and depression. They also experienced lower levels of self-esteem and job satisfaction.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: “The Course of Grief Following a Romantic Breakup”

  • This study found that the grief process following a romantic breakup can last for several months, with individuals experiencing varying degrees of emotional distress. The study identified five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Individuals who were able to move through these stages more quickly experienced less distress.

Journal of Organisational Behavior: “Layoffs and Employee Self-Esteem: A Test of the Threat-Stress-Coping Model”

  • This study found that job layoffs can lead to lower self-esteem among employees. The study also found that the impact of layoffs on self-esteem was moderated by employees’ coping strategies. Employees who used more adaptive coping strategies, such as problem-solving and seeking social support, experienced less of a decrease in self-esteem than those who used less adaptive coping strategies, such as avoidance and rumination.

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology: “The Role of Social Support in Recovery from Romantic Breakups”

  • This study found that social support is a critical factor in helping individuals recover from romantic breakups. Individuals who had strong social support networks reported experiencing less emotional distress and were more likely to cope effectively with the breakup.

Harvard Business Review: “Layoffs: The Human Costs and How Companies Can Manage Them”

  • This article reviewed the research on the impact of layoffs on employees and organisations. The article found that companies that invested in employee support programs following layoffs experienced reduced employee turnover and increased engagement. The article also found that companies that were more transparent and open in their communication with employees during the layoff process had a less negative impact on employee morale.
Do you need help with supporting your employees?

Want to support your employees through restructures and redundancy with effective onboarding, stay interviews, offboarding, and outplacement programs? Get in touch with me today to organise a 1-1 call to see how Career365 can support you and your team. Click here for more information.


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Greg Weiss

Greg Weiss is the founder and director of Career365 and Australia’s leading career coach. Greg has coached well over a thousand people from recent graduates to CEOs as they pivot, re-launch and accelerate their careers. He is the author of three practical books and the creator of three online courses: “Career Clarity. How to find career fulfillment”; “Career Networking. How to unlock the hidden job market”; and “Career Success. How to succeed in your new job”.

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