7 Ways to Get Through Professional Loss

Within ten days, I lost a gig making a nice pile of money, and I lost a role that I thought was mine.  It was a rough week–two separate losses that I was not expecting but had planned on. I could have gone into a very dark corner and stayed there for a bit; weeks; months. I could have taken both inward and beaten myself up; berated myself with asking: why?

Truthfully, I feel mildly like a child complaining that “its not fair” what happened to me.  I’m frustrated that things didn’t go my way.  But after crying over one, and stamping my feet over the other, I came to the conclusion:  these things weren’t meant to happen for me.  I took a deep breath, released my frustrations and moved on.


Seriously, this overwhelming sense of calm came over me both times, and I realized that no matter how much I wanted these situations to happen, no matter how much I wanted this role and this job, no matter how big they were in my brain, neither one is meant to be mine.  Neither one is meant for me.  My time is to be spent elsewhere.  The thought that  I’m not meant to be (for you Hamilton fans) “in the room where it happens” is frustrating because I had been planning on both of these activities for a few months, plans were made around them. Obviously, I was not living in the moment and counting my chickens before they hatched. But, to quote Robert Blake, sometimes “the best laid plans of mice and men go awry.”  Or maybe they weren’t the “best” plans.


Part of the reason I felt release from these disappointments go because although I wanted both situations to be in my favor, it truly feels like neither is the right direction for me to move in.  I cried about not getting the role–I wanted it; I had been talking to one of the producers for about a year and a half about playing this role and was over the moon when I was asked to audition for the role. And I suffered panic and confusion for about an hour over the gig–I wasn’t able to work because I was short a qualification and I sent emails back and forth trying to figure out how to rectify the lack. Neither, although both I want terribly, are the way I’m supposed to travel in my life.


Its an interesting feeling, because once I came to terms with both of these adjustments in my life, I feel better.  I don’t feel bitter or angry.  I’m not trying to bargain to get back what I feel I’ve lost.  I’m not crying anymore–I did over the role for about three hours, but I’m a highly emotional being… it makes me a great actress.  I’m at peace.

How did I get there–actually I didn’t know.  Loss of something is hard. Loss of something you know is yours, is even harder. But as I wrote this blog, I realized, these were my steps:

  1. Be Upset.  Seriously.  When I found out, I called my mother, who told me it was ok to cry about my loss.  But I could cry about it that day, and then I had to move on.  I was given the permission to be upset, and a time limit for my grief.  Now, I realize this time limit thing doesn’t always work for everyone, but it really helped me.  I cried it out and was done.
  2. Breathe.  This is usually my step one, but you need to get the bad stuff out before you can take the good in.  Deep breaths help you remember that you’re still alive; that you’re still able to do many things.  True this didn’t work out.  True you wanted it.  But you’re still breathing.  Hear Viola Davis tell you: you is kind, you is smart, you is important.
  3. Take a minute.  Its ok to just chill out and just go through the motions of your days for a bit.  Get back to a stasis and an unheightened state of emotions.
  4. Tell yourself you’re going to be ok.  Keep telling yourself this.  There is some reason you’re not supposed to be headed down that path–and whatever it is, I’m sure its a good reason. 
  5. Look forward.  This step might come a few days or weeks after loss, FYI.  What can you do next?   What is the next step?  What is it that you needed out of the situation that you didn’t get?  (One of mine was money, the other was getting to fulfill a dream.  So for me–What other ways can I make money and what are other dreams, or other ways I can complete this dream?)  Is this the right direction, or should you head in a different one?
  6. Look backward.  Wait on this step until you’re emotionally clear–note you’re not allowed to beat yourself up with this step–its introspection only.  Was there anything you could have done differently?  Was there anything you can still do?  (Also make sure you’re not pathetic about it.  Needy and pathetic won’t get you far.)  Chances are you couldn’t have done anything differently–but note ways you could be more concise in the future.
  7. Make a new plan.  Do you want to head in the same direction?  Do you want to try a completely different goal?  For me, I’ll always keep auditioning–that part will come around again.  For the money, I’m realizing I’ll be alright with out the extra income, and I’m just trying to figure out how to deal with my finances with out the extra padding.

When faced with loss, you have to keep living.  You have to keep going.  Don’t let loss cripple you.  Take time to mourn, of course, but don’t let it be the anchor around your neck. Sometimes loss makes us refocus.  Sometimes loss saves us from ourselves.  Don’t harp on the past–instead take this lesson and move forward.  We only have control over the present.  Make it count.

Good luck!

–Clare

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