Learning to survive and thrive after an economic setback.
Surviving . . .
• Accept the fact that this loss has really happened to you. Denial is a strong and protective mechanism. It helps to numb you against pain until you’re ready to deal with it. Sometimes you need to consciously make the move out of denial, though, and work toward acceptance. If you find yourself thinking, “Once the stock market comes back, everything will be fine” or “Even though this new job pays half of what I made before, we can still live the same way we did before,” you are still in denial. It’s time to intentionally assess your situation and accept its reality.
• Honor your own grief about what you have lost. This really is a loss – be careful not to minimize it. (See my last post about denying the magnitude of the loss.)
• Don’t resist. This does not mean to give up. But it does mean to acknowledge both your emotions and the fact that you have experienced economic and financial loss rather than fight against them. Going with the river current is much easier than fighting to swim against the current.
2. Build and use your support system
• Find people you trust: friends, family, spiritual leaders. Gather your support team around you just as you would if you had lost a loved one.
• Talk. You don’t have to talk about the specifics of the loss, just your feelings about it. This is an important way for you to process your grief and not get stuck in it.
• Take your power back. By talking about your feelings related to the financial loss, you take the power away from the “deep, dark secret” and shine the light of day on it.
3. Get a different perspective
• Put the brakes on rumination. It’s easy to get stuck re-hashing the problem over and over again, trying to “fix it.” But then your focus gets very narrow and The Problem becomes the only thing in your life. Let go of it. Widen your focus and see what else is in your life.
• Remember that you have made it through past challenges. When you’re faced with a loss, it can seem like the worst thing that has ever happened to you. And it might be. But remember that you have experienced many difficulties in your life and you have made your way through them. You have to work on it; it doesn’t happen magically. But take heart in the fact that you have overcome challenges before.
• Stay in the moment. This is hard to do but a real relief when you can. Rather than ruminating about past events or fretting about the future, try to stay with what is happening right now. Come up with your own perspective-changer that reminds you to stay in the moment. The perspective-changer I use is my memory of sitting with a dying client who was at peace with her own death. Being with her made everything else seem like small stuff.
And thriving . . .
4. See what you can learn.
• There’s a lesson in everything. Maybe you did make some poor financial decisions. Learn from your mistakes. Maybe your value system was overly focused on material things. Learn the joys of simpler living. Maybe your kids didn’t really understand what it meant to pull together as a family until now. Help them learn this lesson during these tough times.
5. Find the gifts.
• The sand that irritates the oyster eventually makes a pearl. The economic loss you are experiencing now may be the very thing you need to learn to thrive into new opportunities opening before you. I heard something surprising on NPR’s Talk of the Nation the other day. The show was about a man who used to be a restaurant critic but, because of the economy, lost his job and is now learning how to survive on $200 per month of food stamps. Not only had he learned to do it, but another young woman called in and said her time on food stamps was the greatest gift she’d ever received! She had learned to cook, to save money, to eat nutritiously on a budget – none of which she thought she’d ever do.
• There are gifts to be found everywhere, even in the darkest of times. When my partner’s breast cancer was discovered, it was already at Stage IV. We could not think of a more terrible thing to happen. But, after using some of the “surviving” tools above, we began to see the gifts pouring in. We learned that we were much stronger than we thought, we learned how many caring friends we had, my partner – who had always struggled with her self-image – found out how many people truly loved her, and we found peace through renewed spirituality.
Getting your bounce back after financial loss may not mean getting your money or assets replaced, but it does mean learning to survive – and thrive – in the most difficult times. Will you take this as an opportunity or a defeat?