PV Mirror, Mar 20-26, 2010, issue # 76, pg 19

What losses have you suffered? Did you lose your home? Did you have to sell or walk away from everything in it? Are you trying to sell your home either to down-size or because you maintained a second home? Have you gone from two incomes to one, or to none? What kind of debt have you accumulated? Have you had to live on credit just to survive? Have you lost friends or even your marriage because of the stress that this “recession”, this “crisis”, has caused? What damage has all of this tremendous stress caused to your physical and mental health?

After the shock of the recession and the anger we felt at how much money we all lost, either directly in the stock market or as a consequence in our businesses, pay structure, or actual job loss, we now find ourselves waking up every day to a very different world than most of us have ever known. We must consider our lives without a lot of the same dreams and goals, retirement may not even be an option, and our daily concerns have likely shifted to that of survival instead of pleasure.

We now need to take a much closer and much more honest look at ourselves and our lives. Consider… What lifestyle changes were forced upon you? What type of work have you accepted or have you considered, that is completely different from your previous career, or that is so beneath your previous pay-scale or skill level? …What are you willing to give up or let go of ? …What difficult and painful decisions have you had to make or what ones are you avoiding? …What resentments do you have?

What sacrifices are you willing to make?

I know a man who re-entered the work force at age 62 after an early retirement. One couple, made the courageous decision to live apart so that she could return to her previous work in order to earn immediate income, while her husband stayed back to continue working to keep their new business afloat. I am sure each of you has stories of people in similar situations or you have made similar sacrifices. You may also be the person or couple who have not yet made these difficult decisions and have not been willing to make the sacrifices required to bring about change to improve your situation. If that is the case, what is holding you back, what obstacles do you need to overcome, what fears do you need to confront and conquer?

Maybe you are clinging to certain dreams and goals that you think are necessary for you to be happy. Maybe you are afraid of change or never take risks, or maybe you don’t even know what else to consider. In order to come up with other options, you must be creative. You have to think out of the box, and be very open to all kinds of possibilities and options no matter how ridiculous or scary they may seem. When your friends suggest possible alternatives, do you immediately slam it down and say why it won’t work or why it’s not a good idea? How far are you willing to stretch? Are you willing to re-locate or get job-training for a new set of skills?

It also takes courage to make sacrifices, step out of your comfort zone, and create change. Courage is defined as the quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger with confidence, resolution, bravery and valor. The Latin root is “cor” or heart. Heart is the center or core of courage. Courage suggests that we have a reserve of moral strength to tap into in times of danger or adversity. Some of us have never discovered how much courage we have because we’ve never allowed ourselves to be tested. Do you know what you are made of ?

Humility is another essential ingredient. Is your pride holding you back and keeping you stuck? What others think of you is not important, especially at times like this. Maintaining some image because it defines you is not beneficial. Being humble also means accepting the way things are; not the way they used to be and not the way you wish they were. Humbly accept your reality and consider your options.

How has all of this affected your relationships?

This kind of crisis that directly impacts our survival or at least our lifestyle, causes a great deal of stress on our relationships, particularly with our significant other. Money has most likely become the main stressor and reason for fighting. If you had two incomes and are now down to one, then one of you may be dependent on the other and the one earning the money may be exerting too much control. You may be arguing about how to spend the money and the one with no income may feel uncomfortable and resentful “asking” for money like they are a teenager on an allowance or may feel they don’t have as much say in how to spend it or don’t have the right to “x” amount of money since they didn’t earn it. This loss of equality must be rectified.

There must be a clear understanding on whether the money belongs to both of you equally or what portion of the money belongs to the non-earning individual. You must also consider how much money must go towards monthly and weekly expenses and agree if the non-earning partner will eventually need to pay back his part. It is amazing how many couples never clearly consider financial arrangements until a crisis like this, and even then, as obvious or logical as it seems to approach such a concrete plan and agreement, not everyone realizes the importance.

Don’t let these difficult times destroy you or your relationships.

Written by: Giselle Belanger, LCSW