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The Grief of Financial Disaster

If you have not been affected by recent economic events, hopefully you are offering seminars on how you escaped.

If you don’t know someone suffering financially, please share the location of the rock under which you’ve been hiding!

Okay, so we’re all struggling mightily. What does that have to do with grief? Plenty. Think you’re not grieving because no one has died? Read on.

Whether you usually live paycheck to paycheck, or manage just within your means, or have been blessed to live well, this applies to you.

Let’s look at the stages of grief through a financial lens.

SHOCK. This is a huge factor if you’ve been dutifully putting money away all your life. Your security has literally been pulled out from under your feet. You may be in jeopardy of losing your home, or already lost it. You find that your usual network of support is no longer viable, either. You are unfamiliar with, or out of practice of, scrambling for basic survival. You have no clue what to do.

The same is true for those previously living within their means. Suddenly, the means are disappearing. Not only are raises not coming through, hours are cut, if your job hasn’t already been shipped overseas. Meanwhile your expenses are rising at an alarming rate. The changes to your lifestyle are devastating. The kids don’t get it. You’ve worked hard to provide for them so they wouldn’t know this kind of hardship.

For the Scrappers, living check to check, it’s a feeling of déjà vu. Not again! You try so hard to get out of the rut, but it keeps getting deeper and deeper. This group actually has more emotional strength in these times, because it’s more of the same old same old. However, this doesn’t make things any easier.

DENIAL is universal. This can’t be happening to you! You’ve put things in place so it wouldn’t happen, but they’re gone. You swore you’d never let yourself be in this position again, and yet here you are. You’re a good person. You obey laws, do volunteer work, are nice to the neighbors, part of a faith community, a responsible member of society. These things shouldn’t happen to folks like you.

ANGER may have been your first response. The stages of grief come in no particular order, and you may go back and forth between them repeatedly. This is normal. In cases like the financial disaster we’re facing now, anger is going to come up a LOT.

Anger is the umbrella term for myriad feelings. See if any of these feel familiar: cheated, abandoned, vulnerable, unsure, scared, lied to, insecure, lost, ashamed, stupid, taken advantage of, assaulted, denied, endangered, embarrassed, alone, victimized, guilty, incapable, failure.

Of all the phases of grief, anger is the dangerous one. An angry person doesn’t think clearly, or make the best decisions. In this instance, there is no one person we can get to for retribution. If the person hired to paint your house forgot to paint a closet, a call is made and the problem fixed. There is no one to call here. No central focus for our rage. The financial industry? The government? Your call won’t go through.

And that’s when the warning bells go off. No one can fix this. You may begin to feel furious with yourself for ending up in this position. You feel guilty for bringing family and co-workers down with you. The anger turns inward.

This is called depression. This is very, very serious. If you get stuck in this phase, there can be dire circumstances. Life and death circumstances. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough here – YOU HAVE TO REACH OUT. Not to people who can help financially. Reach out to someone who will listen, commiserate, and ultimately guide you on an emotionally healthy path. There is a lot of free grief counseling out there. Find it. If you still have insurance and can afford a co-pay, now is the time to see a psychologist.

Anger is a very dangerous phase. If you get stuck here, not moving to the last phases of grief, your life can be seriously, negatively affected. Your LIFE. The whole rest of it. Plus the lives of those around you. Reach out. Now. Get it? DANGER!!

If you know someone who can’t get over the anger, is depressed, has shown behavioral changes, get them to an emergency room. Yeah, it’s that serious.

BARGAINING will pop up at some point. We try to make deals to avert disaster. “God, get me through this and I promise I will - - - -“;
“Just carry me on the books a little longer - - - -“; “I’m someone important, so you should - - -“. It’s human nature. We’ve all done it.

There is no time table for grief. The usual recommendation is to give yourself a year to get to the last phase. But if you can’t get over some part of it, it’s going to take longer. If you’re still at it after two years, it’s time for serious help. Please note: ‘getting over it’ does NOT mean forgetting about it. It means learning to live with the memory, recognizing lessons learned, and growing through it as the pain (not the memory) diminishes.

Finally, we come to the point of ACCEPTANCE. Okay, a dream has died. Part of your self has died. But you’re still here. You count your blessings, and form stronger bonds with those close to you. You rearrange your priorities. You have a different view of the world, and how you fit in it. You take one day at a time, and develop new coping skills. You will come out on the other side of all this victorious, though your definition of victory has changed.

God bless all of us in these days. Though it seems light years away, there is

Shalom.

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