Being fired also takes away the position of authority a person has held, often leading them to feel like they no longer have any control over their lives, Stringham says.
"People feel helpless, like a victim, and they carry that with them everywhere they go," he says. "It makes it harder for them to get another job because they bring that negative energy" to the job search.
What's more, all the normal stages of grieving that most people associate with the death of a loved one -- anger, denial, isolation, depression -- often are seen in the recently unemployed. It takes a while, and some serious venting and processing, to get "to a point of acceptance where you can move on with your life," Williams says.
The stress of finding oneself suddenly unemployed can be devastating, psychologists say, but the effects of such a tribulation can be mitigated by smart behavior.
One of the most important things someone struggling with a job loss can do is invest in their own well-being, health experts say.
"They have to take good care of themselves -- mind, body and spirit," Stringham says. "Exercise, eat right, feed your soul with activities, whether that's going to church or being around friends and family."
Williams agrees, noting that people tend to overdo it with alcohol in an attempt to get over the loss, which is a dangerous idea considering that people under that kind of stress are more likely to get sick or even to succumb to a cardiac event.
"I certainly hope Gen. McChrystal doesn't get exposed to the flu virus in the near future, because he's more likely to not being able to fight it off," he adds.
The next step is to "talk the issue to death," Williams says, either with family, friends, or even by "talking" to your journal and writing everything down. Research shows that those who write about their trauma don't suffer as much of the negative health effects of the stress, he notes.
Finally, no matter how hard of a career fall, it's essential not to feel like a victim and recognize the opportunities for growth, Stringham says.
"Being fired can be a gift because you learn to not base your identity on the fact that you are working or what it is you do, but who you are," he says. "You go to your next job with more insight, and more consciousness."