Over 50, Unemployed and Depressed: How My 2nd Life Started


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Losing your job usually is an unpleasant event. But being unemployed when you’re over 50 feels even worse, as you may fear that you’ll never be working again and start feeling depressed.

At any age, it is usually hard to accept losing your job. The induced shock may prevent you from getting ready to find a new job. But when you’re over 50, this experience can be even more frightening, given the widespread opinion that around this age you are beginning to become a senior and probably too old to be of great value in the job market.

I know how this experience can make you feel and what you are going through after you have to leave your job at this age. And I’ve learned what to do, not only to find my way back into work life but also to turn this experience into one of the most amazing lessons I’ve learned in my life! Here are my story and some insights for you.

How Unemployment Affected Me

Over 50, Unemployed and Depressed: How My 2nd Life Started

Incomprehension: I didn’t understand what was happening

When I left my company that day and came back home I started crying. I knew that the next day I would come back to the office only to pick up my personal belongings. This made me feel dreadful and hopeless, and I had no idea what to do.

When you lose your job you usually get a feeling of injustice and you ask yourself many questions. Why did this happen to me? What have I done wrong?

You cannot find the answer to your questions since you’re convinced that you have done your job well. Especially when you are over 50 and can look back on a so-far successful professional career. Before this all happened, you were a busy person, appreciated by your coworkers and boss. Now, you’re feeling the compassionate glances of the very same people. It’s impossible to go from one extreme to the other in no time without losing your balance.

A Period of Self-Compassion Was Important To Recover

I spent almost one week doing nothing. It was as if I’d been hit on the head and I wasn’t able to organize my thoughts. I almost immediately lost my daily routine, staying in bed longer in the morning, and going to sleep late at night. TV had become my best friend. The only moment I left my apartment was to buy groceries. And I did not even dare to go for a walk for fear of meeting other people. I simply could no longer bear the world outside.

Usually, the first reaction to the shock of losing your job is to mourn this loss. You think about all the pleasant sides of your former job and, of course, of the financial security that came with it. Moreover, having been engaged in all kinds of activities with your coworkers,  you are now feeling disconnected from the world. And you start feeling ashamed because you’re under the impression that you’re no longer making your contribution to society as you had done for so many years before.

Then, Anxiety Took Over

Slowly, this kind of mourning gave way to a sense of anxiety. In my mind’s eye, my future looked really, really bleak.

What should I do now and where would I find a job? Which kind of job should I be looking for and who would even want to hire me?

I began to feel a growing apprehension. After all, I had to earn a living. And time went by quickly. But which kind of job would be available for me now that I was over 50?

Until I lost my job, I had been a full member of the working force and society, contributing to the joint purpose.

Suddenly, I was out of work and this made me feel like I was no longer needed. Perhaps it was true that, over time, I had not been able to keep up with my coworkers. Maybe I really was no longer fit to work in this fast-moving professional world.

My Doubts Became My Worst Enemy

There were lots of negative thoughts and fears that crossed my mind as I started looking for a position again.

Where can I find a job, and which type of job can I get? What are my chances to find a decent position? Above all, after having been laid off, will anybody want to recruit me? What if I cannot find another job quickly? For how long can I hold on like this, financially and psychologically?

My self-confidence was diminishing quickly and self-doubts turned into certainties. At this stage, when doubts and fears become overwhelming, there is no way of getting answers to your questions if you solely engage in self-talk. A negative spiral has begun, and it is necessary to bring in new input from outside to stop the vicious cycle of self-doubt.

Asking for Help is Essential

I felt that it was crucial to calm down and try to gain distance from the flood of negative thoughts. Only a pragmatic view of things could bring me further.

First, you should think about what you have. Make some sort of exhaustive inventory of your actual situation and the opportunities you have at your disposal.

Talk to Your Family and Friends

In difficult times we all turn to our family and friends for comfort. We’re confident that they will be honest and caring and try to give us support as best as they can.

So, first, I decided to call my daughter and tell her about what had happened to me. She was surprised at the bad news and anxious about how I could feel. But at the same time, she laughed at my concerns about finding a new job and said:

“You have so much experience and so many talents that companies are looking for, I am sure you will be hired soon again if you want to.”

It did me good to talk about everything and I felt that the burden began to lighten.

I also had some conversations with my best friend and I started feeling truly hopeful again.

Your loved ones will always find the right words to ease your pain and bolster you up in the most trustful way.

So, slowly, I began to see the first silver lining.

Seek Professional Help

In some cases, anxiety and sorrow can lead to depression. If warning signs turn up, such as insomnia, lack of appetite, or even panic attacks, do not hesitate and get professional help straight away.

For one thing, the mere fact of looking for professional help proves that you’re aware of the severity of your health state. But, more importantly, the fact of talking to a health professional reframes the problem as what it is: a health issue that needs treatment.

When we are so anxious and start feeling depressed, our body and mind are suffering. And the first step to take is to alleviate this pain.

When I went to my physician, he gave me medication to help me become more balanced. And he suggested completing the treatment by a special, psychological follow-up.

Also, he advised me to exercise in the fresh air. This is always good for our body and mind, but especially when you are in a depressive state. Sunlight has so many positive effects on our health, such as helping us store vitamin D. A significant lack of this vitamin, amongst other negative effects, can be at the origin of insomnia and may even cause depression.

Moreover, natural light and warmth undoubtedly make us feel better and exercise helps our blood circulate and improve our mood. Those are some of the best natural ways to help you recover. I went for a long walk every day and began to feel the benefits quickly. My stress level decreased significantly and I began to rediscover the world around me. And I could finally start appreciating its beauty again.

8 Steps I Recommend To Get Your Life Back On Track

Over 50, Unemployed and Depressed: How My 2nd Life Started

1. Organize Your Day

Very often, being out of work brings about a change in our daily routine, especially if it continues for a while. There is no need to get up to catch a bus or train, nobody is awaiting you for a meeting, and you don’t even need to check-in at your office. Whereas this can represent a very delightful break when you are on a holiday, it can quickly turn into an unpleasant experience when it gets to be your everyday routine as an unemployed person. You tend to get up later, take your time to do your morning toilet, have breakfast until noon. TV usually becomes your favorite pastime.

From the beginning, try to rearrange your daily routine. A regular schedule is necessary for your psychological stability. Get up at the same time every morning, get prepared, and dressed up as if you left for work, have your breakfast as usual and then draw up your to-do-list. This way, you set yourself small objectives to achieve and this will make you feel that you are not losing your time.

2. Switch TV for Reading, Yoga, and Meditation

I know it’s very tempting to watch TV constantly when you’re over 50, unemployed and depressed. I certainly did so at the beginning, even though I’m normally not a TV-addict. It’s probably just the easy distraction from your negative thoughts and the fake feeling of human presence that makes TV so attractive when you’re down.

But be careful, studies have shown that the more you watch TV, the more your brain health will decrease. This proved to be true across all ages. In particular, there is a clear correlation between higher TV consumption and an increased propensity to get Alzheimer’s or dementia. Watching too much TV is also very demanding and detrimental to your eyes.

When you feel the urge to watch TV to distract yourself, remember that you are probably just trying not to deal with your emotions. Do you even really feel better afterward? More often than not, when you finally switch off the TV, you’re back to zero and feel as sad and depressed as you did before.

Instead, reading, yoga, and meditation are perfect activities to foster your mental health and truly feel better afterward.

3. Check Your Budget

Perhaps you have always been a great financial planner and you know exactly what your options in the present situation are. If not, it is urgent to get an overview of your finances right now.

Draw up a complete list of all your actual expenditures including mortgage or rent, credits, electricity, gas, subscriptions, and groceries. Then do the same on the income side. List your unemployment benefits and actual savings. In comparing both sides, you’ll get the balance. There are perhaps expenditures that are not necessary – such as a subscription to Netflix, and you can cancel them for the moment. Now you can judge how you can get along under the present circumstances.

Do not forget that your family and friends can also give you a hand, if necessary. Don’t feel too proud to reach out, most of the people around you will feel really happy to help you in times of need.

4. Analyze the Reasons

Now that you’ve sorted out your actual financial situation and got it under control, you can set out to try and understand the reasons that led to your job loss. Even in the case of a lay-off for economic reasons, we tend to ask ourselves why we were among the people who were fired. To find answers, you have to dig deeper.

I asked myself if I had liked every aspect of my job. And I realized that there had been several things that I had done differently when compared to my coworkers. Over time, this had led to a feeling of discomfort on both sides. Most of my coworkers had been used to a different kind of collaboration and management, which I could or did not want to adapt to. This was an important clue to find out what the main problem was. I realized that their workplace culture had been inconsistent with my convictions and experience. That did not change my situation but, at least, it made me understand the reason for my layoff. And I knew that this would be a red flag to avoid when searching for a new job in another company.

It is important to find conclusive answers to your failure to avoid them in the future. Your skills alone are not the only decisive factor, sometimes your personality won’t fit into an existing structure. Find out whether this could have been an important factor for your layoff. And if it is, consider paying more attention to the company culture when looking for a new position.

5. Evaluate your skills and resources

Before starting your job search, make a list of your skills and resources. Perhaps you have skills that you are not even aware of yet. Discuss with your family and friends, you’ll be surprised what characteristics they will find in you.

I saw this first hand happen to my son after he had quit his former job. He felt lost and had been rather depressed for some time. And he simply did not know what he could do for a job. One day, however, we were having a family gathering and, just for fun, we started brainstorming which job could suit anyone of us. When it was his turn, we brainstormed and stumbled upon one job idea that we all found would suit him 100%. Believe me or not, he felt very enthusiastic about it, went out to get a course in this field, and started a new job just a few months later. And I have not seen him this happy for a long time!

If you feel you have to take some professional advice as to which kind of position would be ideal for you, ask your friends and family or consider investing time and money into career counseling.

6. Ask Yourself What You Really Want to Do

Over 50, Unemployed and Depressed: How My 2nd Life Started

In any case, it is useful to spend some time and energy in checking your motivations and, thereby, setting your objectives. You will always be at your best when doing things you love. Hence, your job research should reflect your deeper passions and motivations.

I had to admit that, even though I loved organizing workflows and coaching a team, there are different approaches to achieve the best and most sustainable results. Therefore, I thought of some other possible activities in my field where I could also make good use of my skills and experience. This is how I came up with several possibilities and was able to identify a wider range of jobs I could apply for.

7. Define Your Objectives

Now ist the time to define your objectives, medium, and long-term.

After having checked my budget, I was now in a position to evaluate how much money I needed to sustain the lifestyle I was used to. It made me realize that I could allow myself to earn less than I did without getting into financial problems and still live a good life. By lowering my financial expectations, I could widen my job search and thereby increase the probability of finding a suitable job that would improve my quality of life.

My prior goal was to find a decent job in my field for a start. It would allow me to make a living and give me time to look for other opportunities later on. I was aware that I had no clear idea of what I wanted for the moment. And that was OK because at least I knew what I did not want anymore.

8. Online Research

Now that my objective was set, the first thing I did was to update my resume. My daughter and her friends helped me to make it a success. When you’re not as lucky to have someone close who is a professional in this field, you can find useful advice on the internet.  To help you out, we’ve laid out 10 actionable tips to brush up your CV in this other article.

Then I started my online research on different job-sites. I would have never imagined that this would be such hard, time-consuming work!

There are numerous job-sites and you have to fill in your profile into every single one of them. Then, you start your job research defining which category of job you are looking for. Depending on the position offered you have to adapt your resume and motivation letter so as to increase your chances to get an interview.

Finally, I was invited to my first interview. This was so exciting and I was really nervous. But when I explained what I had done in my previous jobs, I began to feel more comfortable. Talking about my experiences and answering my interviewer’s questions felt really enjoyable.

I had always loved my work and I noticed that I had captured my interviewer’s attention. It was as if I was discovering my assets for the first time. The atmosphere was very positive and almost joyful. I even felt happy afterward. Even if this wouldn’t lead to a job, I now had proof that there were employers looking for experienced people like me. My self-confidence took a leap.

Aside from enhancing your self-assurance, job interviews allow you to get into contact with recruiters who then can submit other job proposals to you.

I Now Know That my Future Is Bright

There Are Many More Job Opportunities for People Over 50 Than We Tend to Think

I got several interviews and finally found the kind of job I was looking for. It was not perfect but it had most of the features I had defined for myself. Since then, I’ve even changed jobs several times, with the ultimate aim to find a job that would suit me perfectly! Because I’ve learned some very important lessons ever since I was unemployed. I am not too old for the job market as long as I’m willing to learn and I have skills and experience to share. And I am still passionate about discovering new things.

It is not your birth date that defines what you are capable of. Skills, experience, wisdom, and a calm approach to problems are valuable assets. I am now sure that I will find what I am looking for, no doubt!

Knowing My Worth Was the First Step to a New, Entrepreneurial Path

Now that I’ve realized what I am professionally capable of, I’ve also come to the conclusion that I should work on my own projects, too. I feel more confident that I can take on entrepreneurial projects, and that’s one of the reasons why I started this blog with my daughter.

All of this may not have started if I wasn’t forced to live through this painful experience in the first place. I would never have left the company if they would not have laid me off, simply by fear of never finding a job again. So, in a way, hitting unemployment in my fifties turned out to be very hard but also a blessing in disguise. It forced me to free myself from a job that did not suit me and to start looking at myself differently.

I hope this inspires you to take action, ask for help, and build a new, better life, based on more solid foundations! And feel free to share and let me know about your journey…

Ruth

Hey there, my name is Ruth, I'm in my late fifties. My life was turned upside down a few years ago as I experienced a burn-out. But I saw it as a sign that something had to change in my life. I'm happy I used this tough experience as a stepping stone. I now feel happier than ever and hope to inspire you to do the same, no matter how old you are.

3 thoughts on “Over 50, Unemployed and Depressed: How My 2nd Life Started

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I experienced profound burnout in May, 2019 and I am still struggling to recover to this very day. At first, I was so incredibly sick that I spent months in bed sleeping just trying to regain the strength to get through a full day.

    After a while, I began trying to reinvent myself and I have gone back to school to pursue a Graduate degree in a completely different field than I was in before. At the end of the day, redefining yourself and learning new skills is difficult.

    I would love to talk with others who redefined their lives at 50-something. Perhaps we can share some ideas.

    1. Hello Tom,

      I am deeply touched by your story.
      You seem to have been very badly struck, trying to sleep back your way to health for months.
      You are the first person that comments on this article but I am sure there are lots of people confronted with this kind of problem out there. Yesterday I had a message from a former boss of mine who was laid off after 25 years in the company six months ago and he is 49 years old. I could feel that he had really lost faith and self-confidence. And he is by far not the only one in this company alone.
      May I ask you what was the reason for your burnout and on which criteria you chose the degree you are preparing right now? As you said, redefining yourself is not easy, it was not easy for me either and I had to struggle to get rid of some ideas I had about myself and what I was supposed to do. And learning depends so much on motivation!
      We are thinking of creating a community for people to exchange on their experiences and thus providing support for each other.
      Would you be interested in doing a zoom call?

    2. Dear Tom,
      thank you so much for sharing your comment and story here. It takes courage and it means so much to us… to see that our message is reaching others out there!
      My mother and I both feel like these topics are still a bit taboo and not dealt with properly in our current society. People who have never gone through this can really find it difficult to understand what it’s like, and what’s at stake if we don’t radically change our life.
      We’d be very happy to have a chat and slowly start exchanging stories and ideas about the topic in order to build a stronger community…
      Feel free to contact us at aginggreatly@gmail.com
      Best and keep in touch,
      Anja

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