Losing a job is like a death in the family

Published Dec. 31, 1991|Updated Oct. 14, 2005

I was told by my union representative Nov. 15 at 6:30 a.m. My name was on "The List" at Westinghouse. I would be one of the first called in. "We'll get this over as soon as we can," he said.

I had known this day was coming for three weeks. The numbers were given, I pored over seniority lists, and I knew my job was in jeopardy. I started to take belongings home. I got questions and comments (some not very tactful) from co-workers.

And then the wait, the wait for the day I would be officially notified _ the day I'd become a statistic.


Finally, the day was here. In a matter of hours, I and many co-workers would be leaving the jobs we had held for many years. That's when I realized I wasn't as emotionally prepared as I thought.

It was devastating, humiliating; my whole sense of independence was being stripped away. Tears, prayers, goodbyes, exchanging phone numbers. Now we were all waiting for "The Call." Individually, we would be taken into the human resources office and officially let go.

Each time my manager's phone rang that day, I looked at him to see if it was my call. After an eternity, the call came at 3 p.m. "Yes, sir. We'll be right there." He looked out at me and nodded. I waited for him to come out of his office.

We began the walk down the hall to the human resources office.

The hall was empty. I felt I was on death row. I thought a priest was supposed to accompany me on this long walk. Then we reached the door. I took a deep breath. I was determined to get through this with as much dignity as possible. I couldn't break down. I had to be strong until I left the building.

The manager of human resources was seated at the head of the long conference table. I took a seat to his right. My union rep. was seated opposite me, and my manager was to my right. The human resources manager started reading the letter. He can't even look me in the eyes, I remember thinking. He kept his head down and read the letter. Due to . . . Your seniority is . . . Do you have any questions? . . .

That's all I remember. It was all over in five minutes. Nine years of employment at Westinghouse, and it all came to an end in five minutes.

My boss and I walked back to our department. Could he tell how badly I was shaking? I hope not. I got my coat and purse, and the rest is a blur. There were more goodbyes. My manager walked me to the door, and it was over.

I know I'm not alone. This is happening to thousands of people. Somehow, each of us has to go through this. It's a big adjustment, getting up each morning and knowing there is no job to go to. I've been told losing a job is like having a death in the family; it's that kind of loss. You have to go through the mourning process, as you would after any such loss.

I am trying to accept it, trying to be positive. A chapter of my life has come to a close. I don't know what's in store for me, but with faith and a positive attitude, I look forward to the next chapter.

Bonnie M. Cochran lives in Pasadena, Md.

Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service

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