Career grief is rarely acknowledged, even though several work circumstances can bring up feelings of loss, grief and sadness. A lot of people have been impacted by the changes in the workplace in response to the pandemic. For many of us feelings of sadness, frustration and grief or even a sense of numbness and disconnection colour our daily work lives.

Like others, you may feel isolated and alone in your career. Perhaps you miss a sense of community or camaraderie that feels out of reach at this time. Or maybe you have lost a vocation you loved that you can no longer pursue. Maybe you are even experiencing anticipatory grief about the expected long-term implications of the pandemic on your line of work.

No matter what kind of career grief you are carrying; noticing, embracing and expressing your grief are powerful steps towards finding and creating work that truly energizes YOU.

Getting Acquainted with Career Grief

Getting in touch with the career grief you carry will most likely feel uncomfortable or unfamiliar. From my own experience with grief and from witnessing my clients’ career grief journeys, I can re-assure you, that it is absolutely worth going through and being with your discomfort. Because, when you connect with the depths of grief and disappointment you carry on your professional journey, you also open your heart to finding or creating a career that fills you with joy.

As a first step towards helping you connect with grief associated with your career, I am sharing and adapting the “five gates of grief”, described by Francis Weller in his book entitled “Entering the Healing Ground – Grief, Ritual and the Soul of the World”. These are access points that allow you to notice and feel your career grief.


First Gate of Grief:  Everything We Love, We Will Lose

This gate opens to the grief of losing dear people and beloved animals. In the career context, this gate speaks to the grief we feel when we lose a mentor, a leader, a colleague or a team we felt a kinship with or were inspired by. The first gate opens also, when we lose a career that is a true expression of our natural talents. It’s the grief of no longer being able to pursue our calling, a career path that fills us with a deep sense of purpose.

We may experience this kind of grief when our career changes in ways that no longer inspire or energize us. Often, we face this kind of career grief, when a dream we had about a job, a company, or even a professional field is shattered. Having entered a job, a company or a career field with hopes and dreams, we may see them dissolve as we face daily realities and constraints.

Second Gate of Grief:  The Places that Have Not Known Love

This gate opens to the places in us never touched by love and wrapped in shame. Parts that we hate in ourselves and hold in contempt. These outcast portions of our soul often appear as addictions, depression, anxiety and other symptoms calling for our attention. In the realm of work, this kind of untended grief may hold us back from showing up authentically at work.

It may also push us to overwork, unconsciously trying to compensate for feelings of not being good enough. This kind of grief also expresses as lack of confidence in our skills and abilities. We may feel this kind of grief, when the leadership or culture in a company we work for changes and we no longer feel recognized, heard or appreciated.

Third Gate of Grief:  The Sorrows of the World

The third gate opens to the daily diminishment of species, habitats and cultures noted in our psyches. As a career clarity coach, I witness in some of my clients how this sadness for the Earth surfaces in the realm of work.

When we reflect on how our work impacts our planet, we may feel sadness about the destruction of nature and waste of resources that may be associated with our line of work. We may also feel grief when our efforts to contribute to the healing of our planet, through our work, feel small compared to the enormity of the loss.

Fourth Gate of Grief:   What We Expected and Did Not Receive

Things we may never realize we have lost, because we weren’t born into a village with full joyous welcome of our gifts and of who we truly are. We carry unconscious disappointment, feelings of hollowness and aloneness as a result of this grief.

As a career clarity coach, I have seen this grief emerge as a longing for a sense of kinship or tribe among colleagues. Deep down, we long for a field of work where we feel at home, welcome, worthy, celebrated for our unique talents and contributions.

Fifth Gate of Grief:  Ancestral Grief

Unacknowledged and untended sorrow of those who came before us, born of lost connection to land, language, imagination, rituals, songs, stories of our ancestors. Ancestral grief connects us to the deeper roots of the loss of the village.

In a career context, much of what we grieve through the second, third or fourth gate may have been going on for generations. We may feel the sorrows and the severity of this disconnection in our ancestral lineage. Tending this grief can open us up to a longing to return to reciprocal relationships with the natural and spirit world.

Letting Yourself Grieve is an Act of Courage

Take a moment now to reflect back on the five gates of grief above. What kind of career grief is most present for you right now? You may also feel grief surfacing that is seemingly not career related. Grief affects our whole lives. Whether your grief is directly connected to your professional journey or not, it is most likely affecting your life and your career.

Notice feelings that may emerge as you contemplate your grief. Are you feeling sad, frustrated, angry or numb? These and many other feelings are natural elements of career grief. Allow yourself to feel the feelings that arise from this contemplation.

Then become aware of the physical sensations associated with these feelings. You may feel tightness, aching, or heaviness. These and many other physical sensations are natural parts of grief. As you connect with the sensations in your body, gently breathe into or tenderly hold the places where your sensations feel most intense. If tears arise, allow them to flow.


Being with and acknowledging your feelings of loss and sadness, is a courageous step in itself! We live in a culture that mostly denies feelings of grief. So, the very act of noticing your own sadness becomes an act of courage.

Take Your Grief into Nature

With your feelings and sensations of grief present, I invite you to go outside. You may wish to be in the privacy of your own backyard or walk to a park nearby. Walk slowly and take in the world around you. What kind of details speak to you? You may find yourself drawn to particular leaves, twigs or rocks. Maybe certain seeds, moss or lichen draw your attention. Let yourself linger with these elements.

I encourage you to touch some of these precious details. If you like, you may even collect a few pieces that deeply resonate with your grief. Nature has a way of encouraging us to experience all our feelings more deeply. You may feel heard seen and mirrored in your grief.


Write About Your Sorrow

When you return inside, you may wish to assemble your collected items around you on a table, light a candle and let yourself write about your grief. Let your sorrow pour onto the page without censoring. When you feel complete, you may wish to return your collection back to nature as a blessing. Or you may wish to keep it for a while and even return to writing more about your grief once or several times. Allow yourself to tune in, notice and follow your instinct.


Invitation to Grieve in Community

When I attended my first communal grief ritual several years ago, it felt like I was drinking from a deep well. I felt nourished, alive, and deeply connected from sharing my grief and witnessing other people grieving. Grief has traditionally been held and transformed in community. One of my teachers even describes it as the glue of community. Therefore, the absence of communal grief rituals in our culture has led to disconnection, isolation and loneliness. Grief tending in community has become an integral, gratifying part of my life.

All gates of grief lead to what Francis Weller calls “the communal hall of sorrows”. Because, as much as you may experience your feelings of sadness and grief on a personal level, these feelings are indeed part of the human experience. With deep gratitude for my teacher, Laurence Cole, Francis Weller’s books, their teachers and the people I’ve been in ceremony with, I invite you to participate in CAREER GRIEF RITUAL. Simply send me a message via my contact page “YES to CAREER GRIEF RITUAL” and I will let you know about the next opportunity to transform your career grief in community.


When you touch and feel the pain of your loss and let yourself grieve and be held and supported in community, your heart breaks open. Your open heart can help you find new ways of making meaningful contributions and a career that energizes and inspires YOU.