Now that it’s been a week since the unthinkable happened – Joe abruptly losing his job – I thought I’d talk about my reaction.
Just as there are different stages of grief, one goes through stages when suddenly their household income drops below their expenses.
It felt like a dream, or specifically more like a nightmare, made more so by the fact that I was literally asleep when Joe called to say he had been let go and was coming home. It took me a minute to process what was happening. How could this be? He worked so hard and for so many hours (including a 20-hour day not too long ago). He did his best, and yet that wasn’t good enough? Why was this happening?
We have been through possible layoffs before but we always had several months notice and there was a promised severance package in place. Not this time. One day employed, the next day not. It was difficult to wrap my head around what this would mean for us.
Uncertainty often leads to fear, or in my case panic, and I hit that stage quickly. How were we going to pay the bills on my salary alone? How long would we be in this position? What will be the long-term ramifications of this one decision, over which we had no say?
We had been saving aggressively for retirement for years and all I could think about is how this could ruin everything. If I could see into the future and know how long we’d be in this situation at least I’d have an end goal in mind, but having no idea was giving me heart palpitations. On top of that concern, was that his next job could pay less which means we wouldn’t be able to go back to fully funding our retirement accounts. If you thought my anxiety disorder was bad when we were living debt-free, imagine how much it instantly skyrocketed with this news. The fear of the unknown is a powerful thing – this one change in circumstances could completely derail our entire future.
These thoughts led to a feeling of powerlessness. I barely slept on Monday evening because so many thoughts were swirling around my head. I felt like in one fell swoop some uncaring person/entity had ruined our lives without so much as a thought. I mused why people bother working hard at their job at all if this could be the end result.
By the next day I was angry. It especially angered me that he was let go the last day of the month giving us no time to schedule any preventative doctor visits before our insurance was cancelled. Had this happened just one day later – March 1st – we would have had until the end of the month. Instead everything was cancelled the same day we received the news. Therefore, while we shop around we are uninsured which is both scary and infuriating; the price of Cobra is ridiculous.
In addition, while looking into our other options I started to feel resentful that we’ve paid into all these systems via our tax dollars but do not qualify for them due to the money we have saved over the fifteen years we’ve been together. It felt like we were being penalized for being financially responsible. Had we lived at or beyond our means we would easily qualify for food stamps and free healthcare, but now we’d have to burn through all our savings first. You must be destitute to reap any benefit from the very programs you’ve paid into your entire working life.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m incredibly grateful that we aren’t destitute; it just seems a bit unfair to work so hard and be denied help when you need it.
By mid-week I was done feeling sorry for myself and wasting my energy feeling angry. None of those things are going to help us forage this new path, so I felt it best to focus on the positive. At that moment the term blessing in disguise came to mind. Joe was very unhappy at his job, and extremely stressed out which is unhealthy in so many ways, so perhaps this was all for the best. We would have never chosen this particular path, but it wasn’t up to us. I was determined to start focusing on the things under our control, like reducing our monthly expenses (which I’ll get into more specifically in another entry).
So that’s where I’m at today – trying to maintain positivity in a difficult situation.
I’d love to hear from people who have been in our situation before. How did it make you feel and how did you handle it? Do you have any words of wisdom? Please share in the comments below.