Coping with Your Husband’s Job Loss
My cell phone rang on Monday morning while I was working at a client’s office. “Lori, can you meet me at home? I’ve just been let go from my job.” I packed up and got in the car and started to drive, my heart pounding, my mind racing…then the tears started, and I began to pray.
Just the previous Sunday afternoon, Del and I had been talking about his job. Over a period of time there had been significant leadership changes in his company, resulting in increased stresses and frustrations that hindered him from being able to do his job well. Many times Del would come home with a bad tension headache after a long day at work, not to mention the extreme fatigue he was feeling. He told me he wasn’t sure if God was trying to tell him it was time to find another job, or whether He wanted him to persevere in this job. We decided he should update his resume and start sending it out to some recruiters, and we would see if God would open any doors. Then the decision was taken out of our hands.
When I arrived home, Del was sitting in a chair in our living room just staring into space. I have never felt so inadequate in all my life! I sat down in his lap and we both started to cry. After we shed our tears (at least for that time) we prayed together. We acknowledged God’s sovereignty and plan for our lives, and we asked for His peace in the midst of all the uncertainty.
Thus began our journey – one that would change us both individually and also our marriage forever.
So as the wife of a man who no longer has somewhere to go everyday, where do you start in showing your support?
1. Teach him how to do the laundry!
We both recognized that, for the foreseeable future, Del would be available to help out more at home. He was always very willing to help me in whatever way I needed him – he just wasn’t always available. So, he asked me to show him how to do the laundry since he now had the time. I’ll always remember, during his first week at home, him leaving the dinner table upon hearing the dryer buzzer and announcing that he needed to go and “fold his towels!” Del was also able to help with the groceries, the morning school drop-offs, and with dentist and orthodontist appointments. I was so grateful for his willingness to help with my load. One caution in this area, though – do not give him so many things to do that he doesn’t have time to look for a job!
On a more serious note…
2. Encourage him!
There were many days when Del needed me to be his greatest encourager, while he struggled with thinking that he was not good enough to get a job to take care of his family. I needed to remind him how important he was to our family, how proud we were of him, and how much we loved him. He needed to be reminded that, just as we had prayed and acknowledged God’s sovereignty in those first few hours, it was God who was in control and He was worthy of our trust. God would open that door of employment for him when He knew best – which is also why it was so important to….
3. Pray for him!
What greater gift can I give to my husband than to pray for him; to commit him to the protection and care of the One who knows him more intimately than me, and who loves him even more than I ever could? Many times I would not know what to say to Del when he was feeling down or frustrated. I knew that his feelings were real, but I also knew that Satan wanted nothing more than to keep him feeling that way. Psalm 145:14 says “The Lord helps the fallen and lifts up those bent beneath their loads.” I often had to ask God to meet Del’s needs, because I knew I couldn’t!
4. Communicate with the kids!
Del losing his job affected the whole family, not just him. When Del lost his job, our children were 11 and 15 years of age. Any time that Del or I wanted to spend money, our 15-year-old son Ryan would tell us not to. He would say “I know it – we’re going to be living in a cardboard box!” Recognize the need to let the kids know how you are doing, as it is appropriate to their age. Tell them when Dad has a job interview, or even when he gets a call for a potential opportunity. And most of all, pray with your children. There were many nights we gathered as a family in our daughter Lauren’s room as she climbed into bed and prayed together. We would thank God once again for His provision and care for us, and ask again that He provide a job for Dad. On more than one occasion I heard Del thank God in prayer for doors that the Lord had closed when he was not chosen for a job, even after several interviews that looked very promising. Del was able to model to our kids the Scriptural principle that “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
5. Be willing to adjust!
As much as I needed to support my husband, his job loss did have its affect on me as well. Having had the privilege of being a stay-at-home mom while the children were younger, and running my own accounting business as they got older, I am used to having time at home – by myself! All of the sudden I had my husband around constantly. Yes, it had its advantages with regards to his help, but it was just not normal.
I was used to my routines: getting lunches made, children to school, household chores done, getting out the door to see clients – all the things I had been doing for the past 17 years. But now Del was home in the mornings, and it always seemed we’d get into conversations about things right when I should have been heading out the door. And then I’d come home later in the day prepared to go about my usual routine (reading the mail/e-mails, making some phone calls, or exercising on the treadmill), only to find Del in our home office, working away on the computer. So I would spend some time with him and then start dinner early, as we no longer had to wait for him to get home.
I found myself longing for time on my own. It’s not that I didn’t love him and enjoy being with him, but I needed some time to myself once in a while. I found I was beginning to resent the fact that he was there all the time. But I also had to recognize and be sensitive to the fact that he did not want to be at home either. We both had to be willing to consider each other’s feelings in this matter.
6. Communicate with each other!
As a wife, a lot of my security and stability came from the fact that I had lived in the same place for the 20 years we had been married, my husband went to work everyday and earned an income to pay the mortgage and the bills, my children were happy in their schools, and I had family and friends all around me. Now it became apparent to me that all of that might change! Not only that, but I found myself wondering what Del was doing with his time – how hard was he looking for that job? Was he allowing other things (church involvement, household tasks, etc.) to interfere with his job searching? It was critical that we communicate with each other, so he knew how I was feeling and I wasn’t creating expectations for him that he did not know about.
7. Seek God together!
More than anything, though, this was the most important change that came for the both of us. Praying together as a couple was always a sporadic thing for us over the years. But when God brought this change and uncertainty to our lives, there was no question that we needed to draw together and especially pray together if we were going to make it through this. Now we pray about everything, whether it’s a decision to be made, or just about whatever we are feeling; we bring it before God together. We also pray together for one another. It’s a tremendous way to demonstrate our love for each other, and to feel like we are tackling the challenges of life as a team.
A few months after Del lost his job, God gave me a verse from the Bible that became my promise for this period of time we were going through. Hebrews 10:23 says, “Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.”
I can’t say there weren’t tough days. It wasn’t always easy to keep trusting and believing that God had a plan for us. But in the end I knew God could be trusted and that He was faithful; that His plans were for our good and not to harm us. One of the greatest blessings that we have found in our journey of the last three years is that God has taken what we both knew to be true in our heads and has now imbedded it in our hearts. Sometimes the most important lessons in life are learned through our hardest trials.
Have you or someone you love lost their job? Talk to a mentor who can pray and support you through this time.