When bad things happen to good people
Life happens to all of us. We are trundling along, making plans for a vacation, thinking about a weekend get together, considering an advancement or a promotion in our workplace, buying that special pick-me up for the evening, children healthy, grandparents busy in retirement, everything seems just fine.
We feel somewhat complacent, did a bit of planning, perhaps not as much as we might have, but we knew that we can get back to finalise things soon. Normal days, normal lifestyle. Better days ahead — wonderful thoughts!
Then, without warning, normal becomes something far different, our life changes, sometimes irrevocably. And as poet Robert Burns once wrote: “Even the best laid plans, go awry”.
Some disasters, such as hurricanes, fires, and our now total pandemic immersion, are collectively worse as they indiscriminately affect the whole community. Others, such as the permanent loss of a loved one, disabling illness, redundancy, financial fraud, are so painfully personal they can barely be articulated.
When an unexpected disaster happens, it can be a sudden shock, or at the least a very delayed acknowledgement that life will not be the same.
Our emotions can run the gamut, figuratively, see-sawing through our psyche, making our innate logic ability harder to find any perspective.
We are everything and everywhere all at once; emotional reactions tend to follow stages:
• Anguished and incredibly sad at the worst of life events.
• Angry and defiant at the world. How could this happen? Why me? Why my family?
• Anxiety and stress become evident as we cope with this new challenge. Sleep patterns may be interrupted. Interpersonal relationships may become strained, while unpredictable feelings such as boredom, and detachment increase.
• Decision paralysis can set in, in concert with depression. Thoughts of why bother trying when you can't control anything? It becomes harder to make any decision — that is actually a way of handling grief, by shutting out reality.
All the while, financial undercurrents can cause additional stress.
Our innate resilience comes to the fore as time goes on
Acceptance of the new reality gradually evolves. And you start to cope with your situation — re-establishing your regular routines, going back to healthy behaviours: eating better, exercising any way you can, communicating with friends and relatives, getting adequate sleep, taking small actions initially.
You are perfectly normal
Individuals may feel guilty, too, for their behaviour that they may appear irrational, unsettling, and antisocial.
However, behavioural psychologists know that every single one of these emotions are perfectly normal responses to unexpected, destructive events affecting our lives. You are grieving for your loss, your family, yourself, and a possible complete lifestyle change.
Eventually, you will arrive back to a good place to take action
Everyday living has to resume in a new normal. Children have to go to school, meals have to be prepared, we have to go back to work and support family members. Community involvement resumes, assessment of current finances, and planning for the future resumes.
Some thoughts on what to do if a disaster has left your finances short
It is never easy coping with unexpected tough expenses in your own personal situation, let alone managing financial survival in a total community social distancing situation, never before experienced in our lifetimes. No one could have predicted with certainty that the Covid-19 situation would have happened at this time in this community.
Use every means possible to bolster and protect your cash fund.
• Cash in savings and use sparingly, if possible.
• Paycheque loan or an advance from an employer, if possible.
• Borrow from relatives, friends, but formalise with signed promissory note because they are in the same situation and must be repaid, later.
• Home equity line — arrange ahead — if any sense of impending financial retrenchment, such as a company restructuring.
• Ask for a temporary rent reduction from landlord.
• Sell investments, assets, anything of value, in a worst-case scenario, sell your home
• Arrange temporary mortgage payment abeyance, delay or reduction.
• Borrow against life insurance, if available.
• Consider social media funding.
• Find a job, any job, or a second job, understanding that it may be not be as easy to procure in a good economy.
• Barter with your community, especially if you are trying to preserve your contingency fund. Barter means no cash changes hands, no reduction in cash cushion. It is ironic that barter is back in style with online networking trading.
• Seek Government assistance, that is what governments are for — to protect and help those disadvantaged. This is what our combined taxes are meant to do, to support our community.
We have to move forward
Our communities have been disrupted. Never before have we been denied the right to basic interpersonal interaction on a universal scale, meaning sense of touch, closeness in groups, working, relaxing, exercising, communicating, and praying in proximity to each other. Social media, while some comfort in isolation, is simply not an equivalent, far from it.
In a very basic sense, we humans are herd creatures. We need each other: in times of sorrow and serenity, to survive danger and achieve safety, to experience resilience and share happiness as the human gesture, a touch is all powerful. Our community is our security blanket.
We are all in this together, a hackneyed phrase I acknowledge, but never more true than now, today.
Let us hope we return to normalcy with a new outlook, a new dedication to working together to building a successful society, the community we are proud of and a model for our time in history.
Readers, I encourage you to listen to this wonderful YouTube complementary performance Message Of Hope, a gift on Easter Sunday from Andrea Bocelli, Italian global music tenor icon, gives a solo performance representing a message of love, healing and hope to Italy and the world. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huTUOek4LgU
It is so emotionally transcendent during the last anthem Amazing Grace, Andrea is standing in front of the cathedral, deserted, singularly alone. His powerful voice soars to the heavens as drones fly over the gathering places in London, Rome, Milan, France, elsewhere, deserted, empty of human congregation.
• American psychological association: recovering from disasters. Link: https://tinyurl.com/yauuvsws
• Martha Harris Myron CPA JSM: Masters of Law — international tax and financial services. Pondstraddler Life, financial perspectives for Bermuda islanders and their globally mobile connections on the Great Atlantic Pond. All proceeds earned from this column go to The Bermuda Salvation Army.