Looking ahead instead of looking back

The stages of grief are usually cited as:
1. Shock and denial.
2. Pain and guilt.
3. Anger and bargaining.
4. Depression, reflection and loneliness.
5. The upward turn.
6. Reconstruction and working through.
7. Acceptance and hope.

I’m not even a good armchair psychologist. And since losing my job on Feb. 27, I don’t feel as if I can afford a counselor. So I guess I’ll keep using this blog as I work through these steps. If that strikes anyone who might read this as a desperate attempt to call attention to myself, please go find another blog to read. Or start your own.

Today, I am tipping my toe in the pool of the upward turn. It’s a refreshing change because for the past few days I’ve wrestled more with depression, reflection and loneliness than I generally have in the past.

But I spent the better part of Sunday afternoon on a bike ride. It did wonders for my attitude. When I came home, I spoke on the phone with a longtime friend who lost his job as a newspaper editor in an earlier round of budget cuts. Today, he says he is healthier, happier and less stressed than he ever was in the last 10 years of his newspaper career. I’ve heard similar stories from all of my newspaper friends who lost their jobs in budget cuts and have moved on to new and better things.

Their stories give me hope. And I’d rather be hopeful than angry, which before that bike ride is how I felt about some anonymous criticism I received Saturday. I initially included the full text of that criticism in a posting on Saturday night. After getting up Sunday morning, I took it down.

For a while, I thought about turning the whole thing over to the Lee Enterprises corporate human resources people to let them know how someone was misusing their computers. But I’ve decided to just forget the whole damn thing. I’ve already wasted too much energy on someone who just isn’t worth the effort. There are more important things on which to focus and my anonymous critic was right about at least one thing: It’s time to move on.

It’s easy — very human, in fact — to be angry with those who take something from you as dear as newspapering was to me. But I worked with too many great people to list in the 21 years I collected a paycheck from Lee Enterprises. That includes those who are left to fight the good fight at the Muscatine Journal. I wish them well.

From now on, when I think of my life in newspapers, I’m going to focus on those colleagues and the fun we had. I’ll think of the thousands of people whose stories I have helped tell. To hell with everything  else.

Coming to that realization hasn’t been easy. I never wanted to be anywhere else but in a newsroom in the 23 years I spent in them. I put it ahead of nearly everything else in my life. And regardless of all the bad news that gets reported these days about newspapers, I still couldn’t imagine that I would ever lose my job. Until I did.

In the 21 days since then, I’ve been confronted by shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, depression, reflection and loneliness. But it’s time to work even harder at rebuilding my life, begin moving farther into the curve of the upward turn and figuring out what I’ll do when the next Election Night rolls around without me.

It’s taken a few weeks, but I’m starting to think someone else will want the commitment and dedication I put into those newspapers even if the people running the newspaper no longer do. It’s part of moving forward — the only thing any of us can do. And my angry, anonymous former colleague can stop worrying, because I’m getting there.

Today’s quote: Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much. — Blaise Pascal, French philosopher (1623-62)

Just a note: I see this little blog has topped 10,000 page views. Thank you to everyone who is giving it a look.

9 thoughts on “Looking ahead instead of looking back

  • This is good, Chris. Glad you are moving forward. If you do step back, and feel bad again, remember that is part of the cycle too. You may do that many times. Your friends will be there for you- giving you space and understanding if you do step back, and a hand up to get you outta there when you need it. I am pulling for you, and have confidence that there is something good ahead.

  • A few years ago I read the book titled ‘The Sociopath Next Door’. It spoke of the number of sociopaths that are out in the public, at our jobs, in our families and living next door. They can make this world a very painful and difficult place for many people. I think you just came in contact with one.

  • Chris,

    To me you appear consistently—perhaps strikingly—healthy and normal, judging from your honest writing from the first day forward. I might worry if you could not acknowledge “shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger, depression, reflection and loneliness.” As it is, I don’t know how better you could you be working through your grief.

    A couple days after you started this blog, I wrote on Facebook: “We’d be a more compassionate society if EVERYONE got fired a couple times. Until you’ve been there, it’s awfully easy to feel it’s something that happens to other people, other people who must have deserved it somehow.” Between the many responses to that post and the positive feedback you’re receiving here, it looks to me like you’ve already done the world more good fired than most folks do employed!


  • “Better than the gold of kings are memories of happy things.” Sounds like you’re starting to heal yourself with good memories Chris. Way to go!

  • Hey Chris,

    Keep ridin’ the bike. Keep looking ahead. Keep focusing on the positive which you are now doing. Keep smiling when you can. Keep up the continued excellent writing. Pat yourself on the back. Bravo. Eyes forward. Keep ridin’ the bike, Chris.


  • Hey Chris,
    You’re sounding very ‘entrepreneurial’! Here’s a trout fishing metaphor for you as it relates to your new ventures … “If you can’t match the hatch, look under a rock!”

  • Another good piece of writing Chris. You seem to be working through this with the same spirit you did at the paper. There are good folks at the Journal, which I myself have had the pleasure on occassion to be a part of their work. I certainly remember our short visit. Hang in their, and keep writting.

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