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Hello <<First Name>>,

As I write this, the United States and its neighbors are reeling from the destruction of three hurricanes and a major earthquake. I know our thoughts go out to all who are affected.   While many people are grateful that they and their loved ones have survived, many will still be facing considerable financial loss.  Suddenly, goals they were pursuing only weeks ago have to be put on hold for the foreseeable future or abandoned altogether.  Financial loss, like any other, must be grieved and processed before recovery can begin.  However, the grief associated with financial loss may take a slightly different form.  I discuss grief from financial loss in this month’s Feature Article, and then offer some suggestions for recovery in the Top Ten.

Best wishes,

Coping with Financial Loss

Significant financial losses often accompany difficult or traumatic life events, including divorce, job loss, death of a spouse or major illness.  When this happens the financial loss can make grieving and coping with the initial event all the more difficult.  However, it is important to recognize and grieve the financial loss as well before we can begin to take steps to recover.    You may be familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief.  Those stages can be applied to financial loss.

Initially a person may feel shocked when first confronted with the reality of the financial losses associated with a divorce, job loss or death.  In the beginning it may be easiest to not think about it at all.  Then there may be a temptation to believe that the financial loss will not materialize.  For example, we may hope that divorce attorneys or insurance policies will prevent the loss .

Once it is clear that the financial loss is real, anger often follows.  The anger may be directed outward at a spouse, boss/company, investment professional, or lawyers.  It can also be directed inward at one’s self for mistakes made, real or imagined. 

Bargaining can also be directed at one’ self or others.  When directed at one’s self it generally takes the form of “if only I had…” statements.  We wish to be able to go back in time to take a different course of action to prevent the loss.  When bargaining is directed outward, it takes a literal form.  We may bargain with people and agencies in hopes they will be persuaded to mitigate our losses, even if they are unable to do so.  

Depression related to financial loss is often characterized by shame.  We may feel ashamed to find ourselves in the situation.  We may feel we are to blame.  Or we may feel ashamed to be worried about our financial needs when a loved one has just died or some other tragedy has occurred.  In any case shame tends to make us withdraw which leads to isolation and loneliness. 

Acceptance is the final stage of grief, not an indication that grief has been resolved.  During this time a person may continue to be withdrawn and reticent.  However, there is an understanding that the loss has occurred and that soon steps will need to be taken to live life under these new circumstances. 

Ultimately major financial loss is a loss of immediate security and future plans.  It can also damage our sense of identity.  There is no ritual to help us through this grieving process but there are steps we can take to aid in our recovery.  Below are some ideas to help you move forward.   

While there is no formula to recovering from financial loss the following suggestions may help you to begin.
  1. Resist the temptation to hide.Talk about your loss with a trusted friend who will respect your privacy.
  2. Continue to take care of your physical health.Grief is draining.Replenish your body with rest, nourishment and exercise as best you can.
  3. Try not to linger in denial.Unlike some other forms of loss, financial loss can be exacerbated by inaction.
  4. Acknowledge and value what you still have.It may seem cliché but focusing on your resources such as your family, health, savings or ability to continue to earn income will help you to garner the energy to take the necessary next steps.
  5. While it is natural to seek someone to blame, including yourself, it can also be a drain on your energy and attention both of which are important resources.Try not to deplete those resources.
  6. Do not become attached to creating the exact future you had planned before the loss.It is time to plan for a new future that takes into consideration the changes that have occurred.
  7. Do not catastrophize the future.The future may be different than the one you were planning for but it can still be a happy one.
  8. Seek help.There are professionals to help you through both the financial and emotional aspects of your loss.
  9. Learn what you can from the loss and utilize that knowledge to help you recover and build a new plan.
  10. Take small steps now.Don’t become overwhelmed with the enormity of your situation.Make one phone call or complete a small task.This will keep you moving forward and build motivation and energy for larger steps.

About Barbara Hill
Barbara is a psychotherapist with over 20 years of experience helping individuals and couples to achieve happier, more fulfilling lives. She assists clients to better understand themselves, improve their relationships and develop more effective responses to life's problems.
Barbara always welcomes the opportunity to work with new clients.
Copyright © 2017 Barbara Hill, LCSW-C, All rights reserved.

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