Now that the economy seems to be somewhat back on track, we’re all feeling better, right?
There are still a lot of people out there reeling from the last five years of economic meltdown and you might be one of them.
If you’re one of the people who is still affected by unemployment, home foreclosure, debt, loss of retirement savings, or any of the other ripples of an unstable economy, let me ask you something:
Did you know you are probably grieving?
You may not have thought about your feelings that way, but have you experienced any of these:
How about any of these thinking patterns:
- Preoccupation or rumination
Or these behaviors:
- Sleep and/or appetite disturbances
- Social withdrawal
Welcome to the world of grief.
Our society tends to think that grief is something we experience only after the death of a loved one. But in reality, we can experience grief after any kind of loss.
And that includes a financial loss.
Complications of financial grief
Why don’t we recognize our feelings about our economic situation as grief? Well, it can be complicated.
Not only do we have the material loss, we also might be prey to one or more of these complications:
- Embarrassment. If you lost your savings due to a Ponzi scheme, listened to a fraudulent financial adviser, or bought into a sketchy mortgage plan for your house, it can be tough to share your story with others.
- Loss of Identity. What’s the first thing you are asked when you meet someone new? “What do you do?” We tend to identify with the work that we do, so if you’ve lost your job, you may be unsure as to who you really are right now.
- Feeling betrayed. If you experienced financial chaos due to poor advice from professionals or family members, found yourself in a Bernie Madoff scheme, or were told by banks that they would provide you with credit and then reneged, you may be feeling very betrayed at this point.
- Discounting the importance of the loss. Many people find themselves saying, “I shouldn’t be feeling this way. It’s not like someone has died.” This is devaluing your own feelings because “it’s not as bad” as something else.
- The idea that economic loss means personal failure. You berate yourself unmercifully for the mistakes you made and decide that it means you’re a jerk and a failure.
- Lack of social ritual for this kind of loss. When a person dies, we have rituals to mark the loss and help us adjust: funerals, memorials, sitting shiva, obituaries, etc. But when we lose something else – especially of a financial nature – there is no way to get closure around it.
Pretty complicated, isn’t it?
Bouncing back from financial grief
So, how do we deal with this grief we have over economic losses?
Here are five ideas that, while they won’t bring back what you’ve lost, may help you bounce back from the emotional hit you’ve taken.
It’s time to recognize your feelings as grief.
Have you ever had an illness that your doctor couldn’t diagnose? Finally, after going to many specialists, someone accurately describes your malady and gives you a diagnosis.
What a relief! Now you know what you’re dealing with and can come up with ways to manage it.
It’s the same way with grief. Naming your emotion accurately helps you come to terms with it and learn ways to heal.
Another key component of acceptance is nonresistance. Try not to fight your feelings. Just allow them to be there, acknowledge them and honor them, and continue to go about your life even while you’re grieving.
2. Gain perspective.
When under stress from financial problems, it can seem like the worst thing that has ever happened to you.
And it might be.
However, take a moment to think back to other “worst things” that have happened in your life. Even though it may have not been pretty, you’re still here to talk about them, right?
Remember that you’ve made it through difficult times before.
3. Use your tribe.
Even though a financial loss can be embarrassing or just plain uncomfortable to talk about, this is not the time to try to go it alone.
Pick at least one or two trusted friends or family members to talk to. You might even preface your discussion by telling them that this is a hard subject for you to talk about.
It can be essential for you to have an outlet for your grief and sharing it with others is often the best way to move through it.
Also, your loss may take on the feeling of a “deep, dark secret” if you just keep it to yourself. And that will only give it the power instead of you. Shine some light on that secret by bringing it into the open.
4. Create some positive emotions.
This comes straight from research: Experiencing positive emotions not only helps you feel better, but it creates more physical and emotional space in your body so that you can more easily problem-solve and create solutions to problems.
Sometimes when we’re grieving, whether it’s the death of a loved one or another kind of loss, we think that it’s not appropriate to smile and laugh when we “should” be grieving.
It’s not only okay for you to find some things to lighten your mood for awhile, it’s necessary. Again, it will help you in the creativity department and that’s often what’s called for when economic disaster strikes.
So, see a funny movie, laugh with friends, and just take a break from your grief for awhile.
It’s okay. It will be there when you get back.
5. Find the gifts.
I know this is an old phrase and somewhat tired, but I love it anyway:
The sand that irritates the oyster often becomes a pearl.
Take a step back from your grief and loss and see if there is anything positive in your situation.
Are there opportunities that have opened up for you because you lost your job?
Are you finding out how compassionate and supportive your friends are?
Have your kids learned how to budget and make do with less?
Has moving to a smaller space rid you of unused and unnecessary material things?
Have you learned that you are stronger, more resilient, and more creative than you ever knew?
The gifts are out there. You just need to find them.
Psychotherapist Bobbi Emel helps you bounce back from the significant challenges in life. Download her FREE ebook, Bounce Back! 5 keys to survive and thrive through life’s ups and downs. You can also join her on Facebook where she posts lots of other cool stuff.