Losing one’s job is a very personal experience. It taps into all kinds of feelings. For an individual there may be concern about financial security and what next steps might be. Depending on the circumstances of the stoppage of work there may be shame, or illness, or some other stressful circumstance affecting their feelings about it. Dismissal from work ranks in the top ten most stressful life events a person can experience which can potentially have long term health impacts. On the other hand, there may also be hope and anticipation, a sense of freedom or a fresh start. Walking through work transitions with a directee does not seem like something outside the realm of possibility for most directors. In fact, most directors probably feel very equipped to support someone in that season. But what if that work loss has ripple effects throughout the community? How do our questions and help differ in that context?
Sometimes the loss of one person’s job affects many throughout a community. If that person was a primary provider for their household, or the leader of a community and they are now unavailable or moving away, everyone experiences an upending to some degree. Or perhaps loss of jobs impacts an entire community at once, as when a town has grown up around a particular industry or business, or when experiencing pandemic or recession. There are a variety of reasons that we as directors may find ourselves working with people who are all from the same community. In these cases, we may begin to hear the story of these events told through a variety of lenses. When we are attending to individuals who share many aspects of their lives we can begin to look for common themes between them, especially when something happens that affects the entire community. Identifying these patterns can help us connect people with appropriate services or give language that can aid in communication with local religious or community leaders who may be meeting with the same groups. Spiritual directors can be valuable voices when communities are discerning next steps together.
If you do find yourself meeting with multiple individuals who are all being touched by changing jobs or economies, group direction is also an option. It may help bring together people who are able to empathize with and support one another in unique and helpful ways.
For the individual who’s work or vocation is intertwined into their community life, losing a job or transitioning into something different may be more emotionally loaded. How do they feel about the impact of their changing circumstances on the community? How are they reflecting their experience to their community? Are they able to share and be supported? Are they hiding what’s really going on in their heart? These additional concerns make someone’s experience more than walking through a transition because of the potential depth and complexity of relationships between affected parties.
If you do find yourself meeting with multiple individuals who are all being touched by changing jobs or economies, group direction is also an option. Starting a group may help bring together people who are able to empathize with and support one another in unique and helpful ways. Group direction may also help by providing a variety of perspectives and can give everyone a sense of togetherness and community as they discern how to handle the challenges facing them.
Whether we are meeting with one person or a group, acknowledging and caring for the complex needs that are sometimes hiding below the surface of circumstances, is the ongoing challenge and privilege of being a spiritual director.
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Expanding understanding and best practices for holistic health in the context of spiritual direction.