Getting fired sucks. Not only does rejection sting in any form, but you’ll find yourself in a position where you’re facing a pile of paperwork, no income, and the stress of finding a new job while struggling to keep a roof over your head, food in your stomach, and all your bills current. When you have children or other dependents, things get even harder.

I’m a bank whistleblower, and although I quit my job at the bank, my boss had corporate security call the police to label me a terrorist. I was blacklisted and only barely escaped being incarcerated for speaking out. It affected me more than any other job loss in my life. So, where do you go from that point?

Assess Your Financial Situation

Coping with the reality of being fired is necessary to move on with your life. Just like any other loss, you have to face the different stages of grief, and you had better do it quick because the economy is terrible and you need to focus on staying afloat. The first thing you need to do is get your finances straight. You need to consider:

1. Unemployment. What was the reason you were fired? Do you qualify for unemployment? Even if you believe you don’t, apply anyway.

2. Food Stamps/Health Care/Financial Assistance. When you lose your job, you also lose your benefits. Your health insurance plan converts to an expensive COBRA plan, and starting this year, you can be fined for not carrying insurance. Apply for state benefits – the application will cover food stamps, health insurance, and financial assistance. Figure out what state benefits you’ve earned.

3. Retirement. If you have a 401k, IRA, or other retirement plan with your old company, call your provider to find out what benefits you’ve had vested. If you don’t have enough in your 401k, you’ll receive a check for the balance, and you can withdraw from it no matter what the balance is. The tax penalties for early withdrawals are stiff, however, so be sure to take this into account.

4. Savings and Bills. Figure out exactly how much money you have and how much your bills are. You’ll need enough to cover at least three months of expenses. If you don’t have enough, it’s time to start cutting expenses.

Reduce Your Outgoings

Deciding which expenses to cut can be confusing. The first thing to cut is cable, which is the most expensive non-essential bill in most people’s lives. When I lost my job after blowing the whistle on the banks, I cut everything down to rent, electricity, water, and an Internet connection. Nothing else was necessary. I started cooking more to save money, and I learned how little I actually needed to make it through the day happy.

You don’t realize how many bills you actually have. There are recurring payments and wasted opportunities all over your life. Many people are paying for extra premium levels of cable, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Xbox Live, iTunes purchases, cell phone insurance, store warranties, and all sorts of non-essentials that you never use or could easily work around.

The hardest part about losing your job is the lifestyle change. You have to admit to yourself that you can no longer afford the luxuries you once spent on. You won’t see movies on opening night, eating out is a terrible idea, and you’re better off learning to make your own repairs than paying someone else to do them. It’s not impossible though.

Rally Your Supporters

It’s important to be honest with other people as well. Talk to friends and family about losing your job – they’ll provide emotional support and may even provide financial support. No man is an island, and you’ll need a strong support system to work through your issues. At the very least, they’ll know you can’t afford to spend money, so you’ll avoid a lot of future awkwardness explaining why you can’t afford to hang out with them. When they do invite you to something that costs money or requires you to bring something, they’ll usually let you slide on it as well. Just be careful not to abuse that love – nobody likes a mooch.

If you got fired, there’s nothing you can do about it except pick up the pieces and move forward. Take a little bit of time to yourself to scream and cry it out, and then put on a happy face and get back in the fight.

Featured photo credit: Mike Joseph via flickr.com

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