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  • Writer's pictureNeža Krek

bounce back from rejection in a breeze


You know those collages Google Photos offers you from time to time? Well, the one that landed on my screen the other day was this one and got me thinking:

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Precisely one year ago I landed in the hospital because my water broke 10 weeks too early. Apart from all the attention from the hospital staff and their beeping machinery, I also got one non-negotiable instruction: do nothing.

Me: Okaaaay … Please, define nothing, doctor.

Doctor: Well, nothing is nothing. You see the toilet door 5 meters away from your bed? That is how far you can go. In addition, minimize going to the toilet as well. Move as little as you can.

Huh, that was a new definition of nothing.

You see, I know many things … and doing nothing was just not one of them. To make the situation in my head worse, I was about to launch my online program for women who want to make a meaningful career change towards work that is aligned with who they really are (and not who they are told to be). I was working towards this moment for a while and was really excited to offer it to the world.

When I was told to stay still, my dreams were torn apart. My brain was working full time, my heart was racing. Mixed feelings from anger, disillusion, sadness, fear and guilt were tearing me apart. My belly felt it all and I had a decision to make: I needed to come to peace with the situation and fast. Otherwise my kiddo would be born too fast for the challenges of the world.

I needed to speed up my letting go process. Luckily, I knew just the tool.

In this article I will share a tool with you that helped me get out of the shock that followed after the dreaded doctor's orders.

The same tool can help you recover quicker from a job rejection, closing of your company, parting with a business partner … apply it in your private life, if you will, and build up your resilience - a healthier relationship to your emotions.

We are talking about The Grief Cycle. Originally, it was defined by doctor Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. Here I will present a version of the cycle that comes from Genuine Contact approach to organisational health and balance and my experience as a career transformation companion.

Here is how The Grief Cycle works.

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Stage #0: The event

This tool tells us about emotional stages we all go through when are faced with something unexpected. Let's call these events "losses". Loss of a friend, loss of a job, loss of the possibility to make dreams a reality in a way we envisioned, loss of a relationship.

It is interesting that we go through the same process also with big events that we describe as positive. For instance, birth of a child is a happy event, yet it throws us smack in the middle of a grief cycle. We have just lost the way of living we were used to until the child came to our lives. Everything needs to change and adapt to the new reality: our mindset, our priorities, our behaviour …

Stage #1: shock/anger

… And that puts us in a state of shock, it brings up feelings of anger. You might feel anger towards yourself or towards other people involved. We might experience irritation or anxciousness. Important at this stage is to embrace the feelings of anger as a welcome emotional state. It is healthy to feel anger. Not to fuel it - just sit with it and it will pass quicker that when you try to push it away. Guaranteed!

Stage #2: denial

What follows, is denial. Denial of the seriousness of the situation. Denial that is happened. That it matters. Many of us try to live our lives in that phase as if nothing happened. Some might call it 'the ostrich mode'. And yet, it is a functional stage we subconsciously experience after a shocking news.

Stage #3: memories

When we cool off, we might start remembering the times before the event. Maybe how it was to have that job or go for a walk with your now ex. Sadness is an inevitable companion in this phase. It is OK to feel sad. It is OK to dwell in the memories for some time. You have only fallen in the trap when the memories become your only connection to the world.

Stage #4: acceptance.

A time when we accept the situation for what it is. Note: it does not mean giving up. Nope! Acceptance has no ties to giving up or not caring. Acceptance is about the opportunity to build a healthy relationship to reality.

Stage #5: letting go

Somewhere between the stages of acceptance and letting go you will notice that your mind is not looking towards the past anymore (red or green arrow in the cycle). You will start seeing new options. You will start feeling curious about new possibilities.

If the event came as a big shock, then this is the best time to do inner work. The image of GluGlu marks the ideal time for self-reflection, starting of a coaching program, taking an e-learning program or reading an impactful book. If you push yourself to press forward in the stages before acceptance phase, chances are you will feel resistance to the process, no matter how much you want it.

A client of mine wanted to work on her vision just after she realized she wanted to make a career shift. She felt the urge to do something already and pushed herself to do the work. Her inner work only started to make sense once she came to terms that she needed to respect her timing and give herself the space to accept her current reality of possibilities.

Stage #6: reframing

That is the phase when you will feel open, maybe even energized and ready for action. For creating a new vision for the future. To step into your own power.

Important to know:

this happens to everybody. There is nothing wrong with you if you get upset over losing your favourite pen.

the intensity of you emotional experience can vary from your attachment to the outcome you expected (Really wanted that job or did you send the application out of despair or the feeling of obligation?)

the stages are experienced differently by different people and they might not come in the same order all the time. You might be jumping between them (shock > denial > anger > sadness > some more anger etc)

My pregnancy story through the lense of grief cycle

Stage #0: event

In my case, when I was told to stay put in the hospital with my huge belly, I lost the possibility to give birth at home (a great wish of mine) and the possibility to launch my program before the baby was born (the vision of how I would be finishing my business year).

Stage #1: shock/anger

I was enraged with the gynaecologist who told me I cannot move for the rest of the pregnancy, especially because of the condescending way he delivered the news. I felt powerless. I felt squeezed into a corner and taken away the possibility to choose the way I wanted to give birth.

Stage #2: denial

I looked for second and third opinions on my situation. I simply did not want to accept the reality - if I don't stop, my child will be prematurely born. I did not want to accept that I will not launch my program.

Something good came out of that though: I got informed of my possibilities and my rights as a birthing mother. Plus, I put my cards on the table and saw we will be financially making it even if I don't launch my program. That helped me move to the next stage.

Stage #3: memories

I daydreamed of the way I would have done the webinars, the online classes, the fun I would have interacting with my clients, etc. I also nostalgically envisioned how we were planning on organizing home birth.

Stage #4: acceptance.

By day 5 after my water broke, I have cancelled all the gigs I had lined up till the due date and found suitable replacements. My hospital bed looked like a weird ad hoc office and my partner sneaked in flowers and pictures to make it cozy.

Stage #5 and 6: letting go and reframing

By day 7 in the hospital I let go of the idea of launching my program within 2 weeks. I had a decision to make: what will be my intention for the rest of the pregnancy? I reframed my reality: give attention to the belly, learn how the baby moves, how can I prepare for his arrival, what relaxes me most. The focus shifted, so has my energy. I was still flushed with serious amounts of guilt of leaving my audience behind, yet choosing for the health of my child was a no brainer.

Career transformation reference:

Stage #0: The event

Such events can be

you were not chosen for a job you really wanted

the loss of a job


going back to work after maternity leave

witnessing unacceptable behaviour from a superior

having experienced a really shitty job interview

you decided to close your company and look for a job instead

you realised what you want to do and it is very different from what you have been doing so far, etc.

Stage #1: shock/anger

Let's imagine Lara just got the news she is being laid off - contract not extended. She feels numb. She comes home and drags herself into her living room where she collapses onto the sofa and falls asleep for hours. (That is OK.)

When she wakes up, she goes over the conversation with her boss in her head again and starts cursing out loud. (That is ok, too.) Anger is an emotion she cannot prevent. She has, however, full responsibility over her actions, deriving from that emotional state. What will she do next?

Stage #2: denial

Lara starts thinking of strategies how to persuade the employer to keep her anyhow. Then she is saying to yourself she didn't want the job anyhow. And makes the decision to keep the news to herself for a while. She buries herself in work to keep her mind busy. (Do you recognize any of this?)

Stage #3: memories

At this stage she is fantasizing about the life she had with a paycheck secured. The relief she felt knowing what was coming the next day. The joy would share with her partner, the pride with which she would tell her contract was extended.

But it is not. Baaam! These memories of the idea of a life she attached to keeping her job are bound to bring up feelings of sadness. And frustration, sometimes guilt.

Her inner critic is especially loud: "You were not good enough for this job! What were you even thinking they would keep you here any longer- you know you are way over your head! …. (insert your version of the inner critics chatter.)"

This is a stage where working with someone to help you through the self-criticism is very helpful. The phase of memories and sadness is a pivotal one - you can get swiftly over it or the black hole can swallow you entirely.

Stage #4: acceptance

From here on it gets better. I promise :) Lara is starting to feel relief, notices the sun is still shining. Her mind is transitioning from "I need to have that job" to a more neutral "In 1 month I don't work here anymore."

She doesn't get emotionally triggered by the thought of it so much.

Stage #5: letting go

Lara finds herself thinking of the rejection less and less. Sometimes days go by without her thinking about it. Her mind is starting to look for possibilities.

Stage #6: reframing

Lara steps into a bookstore and turns to the career change section. She searches the web for a person who could help her move forward. Who could get her some clarity what is the next step. Because she just had a marvelous Aha! This is a great opportunity to check if the industry and type of work she was doing really fit her. What if she can find something she will have more fun with, contribute to the world with her own talents. Aaah, that sounds mmmmm. And it feels so yummm!

Lara is in the dream land of possibilities and ready to buckle up for the ride towards a future of possibilities.

What Lara was going through, happens to everyone who wants to make a sustainable career move. Which is proven to be one of the most stressful situations one can be in. It brings up important questions of who are you, what do you stand for, what makes you happy, what do you define as success and fulfilment and how to make all of this happen so you move towards a career that will not deplete your batteries within a year.

In other words: it's a big change. And big changes are like earthquakes in our emotional lives. Applying the Tool of Grief Cycle is like arrival of first responders team on site that give you the reassurance you are not alone. Who dig in the debris of your home with their bare hands next to you.

Now, dear lady, I am curious: Where are you in the process of moving towards work you love? How can you apply this tool for your wellbeing?

Feel invited to share in the comments. I am your biggest fan on this exciting journey.

Big hug, Neža and GluGlu

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