We’re used to celebrating traditional milestones such as birthdays, weddings and getting a new job. But our causes for celebrating have grown to include some unorthodox, some might even say best-not-remembered moments.
Like getting a pink slip.
Becoming redundant is, naturally, a terrible experience for most people who have experienced it. But as others opt to see it, it’s cause to celebrate. Why, they figure, not mark the occasion by popping open a few bottles of Prosecco with your besties?
Charlotte Burr and Michelle Bibbington are such people, deciding to spin being let go from their jobs into a launchpad for new beginnings by throwing a “redundancy party.”
“We both worked at our previous jobs for 18 years and we had a feeling that redundancies would be happening,” Burr recalled. “When we were both made redundant, we didn’t want that time in our lives to be associated with negativity, so we decided to make the most of a bad situation and celebrate. We went to [a local resort] and threw a redundancy party with our friends to celebrate a chapter of our lives closing instead of being beaten down by the bad news.”
This, they decided, was a moment in their lives they wanted to associate with positivity and fun rather than hardship.
In our fast-paced world, the importance of celebrating even the small victories tends to get deemphasized. Research from Relate Charity found that “milestone anxiety,” in particular, is especially common among millennials and Gen Z, who tend to compare themselves and their achievements with others.
Calodagh McCumiskey, a life coach and meditation teacher and the founder of Spiritual Earth, a wellness center in Drinagh, Ireland, advocates expressing more gratitude for the everyday moments, explaining that celebrations “release feel-good dopamine endorphins inside our bodies, which boosts our mood and, in turn, enhances our chances of future success. By pausing and choosing to celebrate the ordinary alternative milestones, we’re appreciating and savoring everyday milestones that can be forgotten.”
The online greeting card and gift retailer Moonpig said it has begun producing more products aimed at celebrating personal milestones, including some that your average person would never see as cause to break open the bubbly. “We always try to offer our customers cards which are relevant and timely for any celebration,” said a company spokesperson.
Moonpig analyzed Google data to identify the most-searched life milestones, and events related to our pet dogs ranked highest, followed closely by divorces and milestones related to cats. Also making the top 10: moving to a new city, becoming single, completing a marathon and, yes, getting laid off.
Paula Freedman, founder and clinical director of HumanKind Psychological Services in Chicago, believes celebrating unconventional achievements—the end of a large project, for example, or overcoming a personal challenge — can help us recognize our personal strengths and adaptability. “They also allow us to find joy and meaning in experiences not typically celebrated, broadening our perspective on what constitutes a successful or happy life,” she said.
Celebrating a divorce or losing one’s job may seem counterintuitive, but doing so can hold significant psychological value, according to Freedman. From an alternative perspective, it marks the end of a challenging phase and the beginning of a new chapter and can help reframe a negative experience as a positive, emphasizing personal strength and the ability to move on to something greater.
As Freedman put it, “Celebrating these moments can aid in the healing process, providing closure and a sense of empowerment.”
Furthermore, there’s evidence that being let go from a job isn’t necessarily the worst thing that can happen to you. According to a 2023 study by the HR software company BambooHR, one-third of HR managers say they’re more willing to hire someone who was recently laid off. Meanwhile, nearly 8 in 10 employees indicated they don’t think any more or less of someone who has been furloughed, and 11 percent of those surveyed said it makes them think more highly of the person.
Jennifer Moss, an international speaker and author of “The Burnout Epidemic,” said that while celebrating life’s unplanned and even unpleasant events can be helpful in gaining perspective and distracting us from ruminating in less-than-ideal moments, there are risks to unconsciously pushing someone to mask their emotional pain.
While divorce may be reason for some to celebrate, for example, data from Cambridge University suggests that divorce and separation can be associated with higher levels of anxiety and depression as well as increased alcohol abuse. Likewise, the American Psychological Association determined that getting fired tends to result in mental stress and anxiety and can even put you at greater risk of suicide.
“We need to be careful about framing high-risk and emotionally volatile situations to be reason for celebration,” said Moss, who suggested tempering life’s icky moments by opening them up to conversation instead.
“If someone wants to distract, then let’s take some time to focus on the positives, but a ‘good vibes only’ environment can end up being toxic positivity,” she said. “Being able to laugh and cry at the same time, now that’s something worth celebrating.”