- Understanding the Emotional Impact of Bankruptcy
- Coping Strategies for the Emotional Side of Bankruptcy
- The Importance of Retaining a Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney
Filing for bankruptcy is stressful. There is no question that it is an anxious process. Locating and meeting with a trustworthy and competent Metro Detroit bankruptcy attorney feels like a huge task alone. Gathering the large amount of paperwork and documentation that that attorney will request from you will overburden you in any given work-week. Showing up in court and answering questions about your personal finances with other people watching or listening in if the hearing is remote, is no walk in the park, either.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Telling your friends, family member, clergy, or whomever else you feel needs to know—or deciding not to tell them—carries with it, possibly, a sense of guilt and certainly of social stigma.
You worry that you will be judged harshly. You fear that you will be tagged as “irresponsible” or even “immoral.”
Thus, unlike many legal processes, Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy are front-loaded with non-legal questions that, ultimately, only you can answer for yourself. Namely, how best to cope with the stress, anxiety, and even guilt that accompany what is, yes, strictly a legal (and not a moral) process that is entirely within your rights under US and Michigan law.
To get through your Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 process successfully, you will need to resolve bankruptcy-related stress and anxiety before you begin, as best you can.
In this Article, we will explore the emotional impact of bankruptcy and provide tips on how to cope with the stress and anxiety that can come with it.
Understanding the Emotional Impact of Bankruptcy
Any legal process is likely to be accompanied by emotion. There are exceptions, certainly, such as patent or trademark registration, but criminal matters, divorce, civil disputes, and, yes, bankruptcy are all weighty matters. These are matters with clear “befores and afters” in terms of what your life now and will later look like, afterward.
When transformational change, for better or worse, is at stake, it is likely to be an uncomfortable process.
What sort of discomfort are we talking about?
In the case of a Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy in Michigan, that discomfort will mean fear, shame, or even guilt.
Why is this? As noted, bankruptcy is a legal process. It is permitted by law. You are allowed to do it. It is no more shameful than signing a contract or applying for a gun permit.
The shame and guilt that accompany bankruptcy for many in Metro Detroit and elsewhere in Michigan are, in fact, manufactured emotions.
That is, there is an industry that has been created by so-called financial gurus at the behest of the financial services behemoths for the express purpose of making you feel bad about considering bankruptcy. Books, radio shows, blogs, podcasts, and social media content have been generated very successfully by these players all carrying the message that, if you file for bankruptcy, you are making a mistake. Or even that you are a bad or somehow immoral person.
In Detroit, it is not uncommon, even, for religious leaders to profess this message from the pulpit.
Understanding the origin of this messaging is crucial to resolving your own anxiety when considering filing for bankruptcy.
What is that origin-point? It is the vested financial interest that your creditors maintain in trying to convince you not to file bankruptcy.
This knowledge should motivate you to do the opposite and to consult with an experienced Michigan bankruptcy attorney.
Coping Strategies for the Emotional Side of Bankruptcy
Resisting the mandate to feel shame over bankruptcy filing may be easier said than done, however. No matter what we write in this Article, you may well struggle with the emotional side of bankruptcy.
How do you then cope with these feelings of shame and guilt?
Some effective strategies for keeping your eye on the debt-relief goal of bankruptcy filing include:
Seeking emotional support from family and friends
Reach out to people you trust and who will be supportive. They can provide you with the emotional support you need to transition to your new debt-free life. Here, it’s important to avoid those people in your life who may not, in fact, be supportive. (Remember the financial gurus, church-leaders, bosses, and others we mentioned above?)
It is just as important to remember that you shouldn’t ask for or accept “advice” about bankruptcy from non-bankruptcy professionals. Your attorney is not a lawyer. Your mother-in-law is not a lawyer. Your estate planning lawyer is probably not a bankruptcy lawyer. If you’re hiring a bankruptcy attorney, use that resource.
Seek professional counseling or therapy.
This strategy obviously only works if you have good medical insurance. However, talking to a mental health professional can help you manage your emotions and provide you with coping strategies.
Again, remember that your therapist is not a lawyer. Beware the overreaching therapist pointing her Master of Social Work in the wrong direction.
Educate yourself about the bankruptcy process.
As noted above, understanding why the media and others seem to want you to feel badly about considering the entirely legal option of Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy is vital.
Just as important is understanding the bankruptcy process itself. The more you know about the bankruptcy process, the more in control you will feel.
Even more important is understanding that you really don’t have to educate yourself. That’s what your Metro Detroit bankruptcy is there to do. Ask questions. Be curious.
But there’s no need to rely on the random scattershot of bad information that is the internet.
Focus on the benefits of bankruptcy.
Remember that bankruptcy can provide you with a fresh start and help you get out of debt. Try to focus on the positive aspects of bankruptcy and the opportunities it can provide. When you feel overwhelmed or confused, imagine life without a dozen minimum monthly payment obligations or garnishment threats or lawsuits or the need to choose between new clothes for your child and paying debt.
Practice self-care and stress-reducing activities.
Engage in stress-reducing activities such as exercise, meditation, or yoga. Taking care of yourself can help you manage your emotions and improve your overall well-being.
If the millionaire banker sending you collection notices every other day can find peace through mindfulness, so can you.
And it doesn’t cost a cent.
The Importance of Retaining a Michigan Bankruptcy Attorney
Retaining an experienced and knowledgeable bankruptcy attorney is critical to a successful outcome in your bankruptcy case. For all of the reasons discussed above, the assistance of a good Michigan bankruptcy attorney is the key to navigating the emotional pitfalls of bankruptcy.
Knowledge is this key. Your bankruptcy attorney has that knowledge.
Your bankruptcy lawyer will clarify this highly particularized process for you. A bankruptcy lawyer will ensure that you have the right documentation and that your bankruptcy petition is prepared properly. A reliable lawyer will ensure that you are not alone in your 341 Meeting of Creditors and other hearings.
Your lawyer will guide you from initial consultation to successful bankruptcy discharge with confidence and with care—presuming you hire one to begin with.
Attorney Walter Metzen is a Board Certified Bankruptcy Expert who has successfully represented thousands of Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 Metro Detroit bankruptcy clients for over 30 years.
If you are considering bankruptcy and are already feeling anxious, it is important to retain the right attorney with the right experience.
Contact us now to schedule your free initial consultation.