Surviving unemployment during the holidays

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“Merry Christmas, you’re fired.” Or, “Your position is being eliminated.” Or, “Don’t take this personally, but we are downsizing.”

Have you ever experienced any of these scenarios? Are you living in fear that you may soon be facing this holiday greeting? I have lost my job nine times. How do you face your wife, your children, your parents, your brother or sister, your friends or neighbors? How do you avoid the pitfalls of fear, anger, anxiety and depression that only serve as self-defecting patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving?

How do you turn a seemingly dreadful circumstance into a learning experience to further your good fortune? I have my share of experience. I have done a lot of things wrong in this volatile state and a few things right. Allow me to share with you the takeaways that have enriched my life to the point of actually being able to thrive and enjoy what can otherwise be one of life’s most stressful experiences.

First thing’s first. You need a plan. If you are married, you and your spouse need to openly communicate. If you are a parent, your family needs an immediate plan. You do not know how long you will be without a paycheck, so you need to know what assets you do have and how long you can remain liquid.

Then you need to agree on how you can live more modestly throughout the course of your unemployment. I cannot emphasize enough the concept of agreement. Your plan also needs to include a family job search strategy. If this is your first time at this experience, then don’t underestimate the fact that looking for a job is the hardest job you will ever have.

The family needs to agree that getting back to work becomes your highest priority. Everyone in the family needs to understand how they can contribute and support you.

Your next step is to seek help. For your job search, begin by letting everyone know you need help. This is not the time to be humble, meek or mild. Stand up for yourself and your family. Be proactive. Treat your job search just like you did your job. There are countless resources for application, résumé and interview skills. Maybe you need to pick up a long-delayed new credential or skill.

For the family, there are also endless possibilities. You will be shocked at the giving holiday spirit of neighbors, friends and family if you have the courage to make your needs known. Avail yourself of the services of the food bank and other social and charitable institutions that offer the gifts of clothing and Christmas presents. You will have the opportunity to return your good fortune to another in need in the years to come.

Last but not least, get your head on straight. I think the most important thing for you to know is that you are not what you do for a living, how much you make doing it, or how many material possessions you have. There will never be a greater opportunity for you to discover and exhibit who you are.

I also think the second most important thing for you to know is that your family unconditionally believes in and supports you for who you are, not only as a money tree. Do not allow guilt or shame to take up residence in your consciousness. It has been my experience that life seems to keep repeating lessons until I learn them.

This is not the time to be asking “Why me?” This is your moment to ask what you can learn. Remaining grateful for what you have is the cornerstone from which to survive unemployment during the holidays.

Robert Cantrall is the author of “The Fall of My Life.”

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