Talking to Your Loved Ones about Job Loss


Navigate job loss discussions with loved ones with these concrete strategies.

Job loss​ ​is often​ ​enormously​ ​stressful.​ ​Telling​ ​your​ partner, ​family, and friends that​ ​you’ve​ ​lost your job ​may​ ​be​ ​one​ ​of​ its most difficult​ ​parts.​ ​While it can be difficult to anticipate and start a conversation about your job loss, preparing ahead of time can help you through it. ​Here ​are​ ​some​ suggestions for how to prepare for telling ​your loved ones about your job loss.

Rules of thumb

Being thoughtful about how, when, and where you will tell your loved ones about your job loss can support a smoother discussion.

Consider the following as you prepare to tell any of your loved ones (partner, kids, parents, etc.) about your job loss:

  • Write down what you plan to say and practice saying it aloud. Rehearsing can help you feel more comfortable with having the conversation.
  • When sharing with people you are close to, ensure that you will have enough time to talk through feelings and address concerns. For example, you may not want to tell your kids before dropping them off at school.
  • Limit the possibility of being interrupted by distractions or other people. For example, you may not want to tell your partner while watching your kids play at the park, or when you’re at a loud restaurant.

Telling life partners (if relevant)

​Consider​ ​telling your partner/spouse about your job loss ​as​ ​soon​ ​as​ ​possible while also ensuring the time and setting are appropriate. Delaying the discussion can increase any anxiety you might be feeling about telling your partner.​ ​During the conversation, do your best to be honest and clear about what’s happened. You can also share how you feel about it, any ideas you have for next steps, and/or express a commitment to look for another job. Examples:​

  • “I’ve​ ​got​ ​bad​ ​news.​ ​There​ ​were​ ​layoffs​ ​at work​ ​today,​ ​and​ ​I’m​ ​going​ ​to​ ​have​ ​to​ ​look​ ​for​ ​a​ ​new​ ​job. I’m pretty crushed.”​ ​
  • “I lost my job today. They decided my work wasn’t what was needed. I’m so embarrassed, but I’ll start applying for jobs right away.”

Your partner will also likely want to know all​ ​relevant​ ​information about your job loss. Gather and share any details related to your​ ​severance​ (if​ ​relevant),​ ​​your​ ​retirement​ ​plan (if relevant),​ health​ ​insurance (if relevant), etc.​ Examples:

  • “I have four weeks of severance pay, and the option for extended health benefits if we decide that’s best for our family.”
  • “I won’t have any additional pay or benefits after this week. I’m going to file for unemployment insurance right away.”

Consider having relevant information written down so your partner can read through it.

Supporting one another

Your​ ​partner/spouse may​ ​have​ ​their​ ​own​ ​strong​ ​feelings​ ​about​ your job loss. ​Do your best to understand your partner’s perspective and allow them to express their feelings without trying to change how they feel. Telling your partner that their feelings make sense can help prevent the conversation from turning into an argument. Examples:

  • “I can understand why you’re angry. This situation is really hard.”
  • “It makes sense that you’re worried. I’m worried too.”

Since you’re also likely experiencing strong feelings, consider talking with your partner about how you can best support one another. You can consider making agreements to support each other through behaviors such as:

  • Listening to each other’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Offering each other patience and understanding when you have strong feelings.
  • Scheduling a regular time to talk without others present to discuss job hunting strategies, managing finances, planning for the future, etc.

Telling kids (if relevant)

It’s​ ​important​ ​to​ ​be​ ​honest​ ​with​ ​kids ​about​ your job loss and​ ​to​ ​reassure them ​that you’ll be looking for a new job and that their lives won’t likely change much.​ ​Be​ ​sure​ ​that​ ​the​ ​words​ ​you​ ​use​ ​and the​ ​details you share​ are appropriate for your child’s age. ​Very​ ​young​ kids​ can be told that​ ​you​ ​are ​no​ ​longer​ ​working at your​​ ​old​ ​job​ ​and​ that you ​will​ ​now​ ​be​ ​looking​ ​for​ ​a new​ ​job.​ ​School-age​ kids ​can​ ​hear​ ​more details, such as:​

  • “My ​​company​ ​cut​ ​back​ ​on​ ​positions,​ and ​my job ​was one​ ​of​ ​them.​ ​I’m going to​ work hard to ​find​ ​another​ ​job soon. Things will be okay.”
  • “My boss didn’t think my work was what the company needed. I’ll find a job that is a better fit for me. We might cut back on ordering take-out, but other than that your life won’t change too much.”

For older kids who might want to help, consider giving them opportunities for helping out like doing extra chores, assisting their younger siblings, etc.

Telling other family members and friends

What​ ​you​ ​share​ ​with​ ​your extended family and friends depends​ ​on​ ​your​ ​level​ ​of​ ​comfort​ ​and​ what’s likely to be most helpful for you.​ ​​The family and friends you’re comfortable with will likely want to support you through this time, and it may be helpful to seek emotional support from them. Your family and friends may also be able to provide practical support (childcare, networking, sorting finances, etc.). Examples:

  • “I lost my job, and I’m pretty worried about it. If you know anyone who’s hiring – or if you have ideas on how to spend less, please let me know.”
  • “I still can’t believe they let me go. I did so much work for that company, and I’m so upset about it. Thanks for letting me talk about it.”

With people you are less close to or people who haven’t supported you in the past, you may only want to share the most necessary details. Example:

  • “I’m back on the job hunt – my last job didn’t work out, but I’ll figure it out.”

Remember that you get to decide how much to share based on what is likely to be most helpful to you during this challenging time.

Keeping up routines

During​ ​stressful​ ​times,​ one of ​the​ ​best​ ​things​ ​you​ ​can​ ​do​ ​for​ ​yourself and for your loved ones ​is​ to ​be​ ​consistent with routines. Continue​ ​with​ ​family or friendship​ ​rituals​ ​like​ meal times,​ story time, game nights, ​and​ ​weekend​ ​outings.​ ​However,​ ​you​ ​may need​ ​to​ ​tell your loved ones ​that​ ​some​ ​choices​ ​might​ ​be​ ​limited​ ​for financial reasons.

Seeking care

If​ ​you​ ​need​ ​more ​support talking to your family or coping with job loss,​ ​seeking care from a​ ​mental​ ​health​ ​professional​ ​can​ be very helpful. If it’s an option for you, consider seeking care through extended health benefits or a low-cost community clinic. Seeking care can ​support​ ​new​ ways of thinking​ ​and​ ​help you get​ ​you​ ​back​ ​on​ ​track.

Know that you aren’t likely to feel or behave at your best while dealing with job loss. It’s important to acknowledge the challenges you’re facing and to take good care of yourself. Strive to offer yourself kindness, get sleep, take breaks, lean on your family, etc. Try to treat yourself how you would treat someone you care about if they were going through job loss.