SHE SAYS: I lost my job and my work was important to me
It’s been hard, especially because I was really good at my job. He gets to go to work every day, but I feel like I have no purpose.
HE SAYS: She’s making me feel guilty for having a job
I’m doing the best I can to be supportive. But after a long day at the office, I come home and she’s making me feel more stressed.
Losing a meaningful job can rank among the worst experiences of life, right down there with losing a loved one, going through a divorce or receiving a terminal diagnosis. It can be long-lasting, bewildering and agonizing. For husbands and wives, it can be a challenge to be patient, understanding and merciful with one another. Let’s look at each.
Patience, please. There is no standard timeline for the grief and, hopefully, the healing that follow a major loss. Let there never be talk from either of you of just “sucking it up” or “getting over it.” And know that even as the sorrow might dissipate, it may take on new forms. Prepare to be unpleasantly surprised.
Be understanding even if you don’t understand. “She’s making me feel guilty” makes no sense – you both know it wasn’t his fault. But grief doesn’t have to make sense. It can be irrational. A woman going through the agony of a miscarriage, for example, can project intense jealousy and even anger toward a mother with a baby. And that mother can likewise feel undeserving guilt. So don’t worry and don’t lay guilt trips about either of you having the “wrong feelings.”
Be abundant in mercy. Feeling and expressing mercy is at the core of our identity as Christians. It’s how we most imagine who Jesus is. One of the Catholic Church’s seven spiritual works of mercy is to comfort the sorrowful. There are multiple opportunities here.
For him: Create and maintain an open space in your relationship for your wife to be listened to. Ask open-ended questions, for instance, about what her job meant to her, and give her all the time she needs to talk it out. Be sparing with advice and lavish with compassion.
For her: Seek consolation from others, both for your sake and your husband’s. Talk to close friends. Consider grief support groups, either in person or through social media. Participate even if you don’t think you’ll get anything out of it. In the end your healing might come more from the comfort you bring to others than from the comfort you receive from them. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” (Mt 5:7)