How to deal with financial grief

by - July 09, 2018

It’s been a tough year. I’ve had a few challenging months and had my faith tested, had a few hopes dashed and I've been driven to tears. However unique my circumstances, I know I’m not alone. The newspapers keep reporting on countless people grappling with the challenging economy, joblessness and death of dreams. 

Events of the past couple of years have joined to produce very strong emotions about our financial and physical security. Hearing from friends about their own challenges doesn't give me comfort. It's because it's painful to watch people lose the things they've worked so hard to get.

Financial loss is not only about money.,,

It's about your lifestyle: everything changes when you lose the money that afforded you a better lifestyle. Your life may all take a hit when there is no income.

It's about the family home: when you have to sell your home to repay debts or there is no money to afford the home-loan, that's a blow to you.

It's about dreams, plans, hopes, and aspirations: you will have to start again to rebuild your life from the very beginning and this is not what you ever imagined or thought could happen to you.

The reason we have a hard time dealing with financial loss it's because we're accustomed to thinking of grief as something that occurs only after a loved one dies. But you have a right to grieve for all your financial losses. The emotional and physical response to losing your life savings or investments can be just as painful as losing someone dear to you.

The problem with grieving for financial losses is that we deny the magnitude of the loss because we think "it's just money, it's not like someone has died." You are expected to shrug it off. You also think that grieving for your financial losses is a sign of a very unhealthy value and emphasis on money.

However, by doing this, you devalue your own feelings and deny that financial loss is still a loss (loss of dreams, lose of home, etc). Until we grieve effectively we will always have a part of us tied to the past.

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Whatever your loss, it’s personal to you, so don’t feel ashamed about how you feel, or believe that it’s somehow only appropriate to grieve for certain things. You have a right to grieve for all your broken dreams and financial losses. As an investor you work hard for your money and savings.

So how do we deal with financial grief?  I wish I could give you an easy answer, but unfortunately there is no single answer to that question. How we will mourn and adapt will vary depending on who we are and what the loss is.
Accept the fact that this loss has really happened to you. Don’t resist. Accept your current situation for what it is. Stop thinking about the past when things were rosier. Stop projecting into the future with fears about unlikely destitution. Acknowledge the uncertainty. Accept it. And remember this  'you will survive'. And this, too, shall pass. Just like the heartache over what's-his-name in 2001.

Let go of it. It’s easy to keep re-hashing the problem over and over again, trying to “fix it” in your mind. Stay in the moment. This is hard to do but it will be a real breakthrough when you do. Create a plan to minimize the chances of another financial setback having such a substantial impact on your finances in the future. No plan is guaranteed to hold up against every potential financial setback, but planning for the future can reduce the chances of future setbacks having such a catastrophic effect.

There are lesson in everything. See what you can learn. Maybe you did make some bad financial decisions. Learn from your mistakes. Maybe your were overly focused on material things. Learn the joys of simpler living. Maybe your kids didn't understand anything about money. You and your children can learn to pull together and help each other. When finances are strained, you can learn the joys of simpler living.

Let me end this by saying, grief is complicated. And losing money can be embarrassing, but keeping all your emotions inside can be physically and psychologically destructive. Rather than avoid friends and family, draw them close, spend time together face to face, and accept the assistance that’s offered. Talk. You don’t have to talk about the specifics of the loss, just your feelings about it. By talking about your feelings related to the financial loss, you take back your power to heal.  

I know from personal experience that bouncing 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. Remember that your financial setback doesn't have to define the rest of your life -- this understanding can help you stay motivated as you work through the emotions and rebuild your finances.

Will you take this as an opportunity or allow your economic loss to defeat you? How do you deal with financial grief?

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