Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Dealing With Emotions, Part I

Rebuilding Your Emotional and Mental Health After Bankruptcy

Money on the brain
Filing bankruptcy is a difficult emotional issue. Getty Images

By gosh, it’s been a difficult year (or five), hasn’t it? Did it start with a job loss? Or, was it a major medical issue? Perhaps your marriage ended, leaving you a lot poorer than before? Did you suffer a business reversal when the economy tanked? Or did you just find yourself swimming in debt that you thought you could handle, but turned out to be harder than you thought?

These are some of the main reasons people find themselves thinking about filing a bankruptcy case.

They are all legitimate and worthy reasons to take steps that will eliminate some of that burdensome debt and allow you to get back on your feet to secure your financial future.

First of all, I’d like to tell you that it’s okay to feel bad. You’ve been through a traumatic event. You are bound to suffer from wondering “what if?” and “what now?”. Many experts will tell you that it’s actually necessary to go through that grieving process. I’m sure many of you have heard of Ellizabeth Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief.  They are: 

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Suffering a financial reversal can be almost as devastating as losing a loved one, and you will likely find yourself living through each of these stages while you are struggling to figure out what to do about your financial circumstances.

As applied to our financial recovery model, this is what I see my clients experiencing as they come to terms.


  • “Everything will be fine. I’ll get a new job right away. Unemployment will carry us through.”
  • “The important thing is that you’re going to be well. It doesn’t matter how much the hospital bills cost.”
  • “It’s just a little spat. We’ll make up and be as happy as we were the day we married.”


  • “Why won’t anybody hire me? How is somebody supposed to survive in this terrible economy?”
  • “I can’t believe insurance didn’t cover 100%. It isn’t fair that the little guy is stuck with the bill just because he got sick.”
  • “What do you mean you’re leaving me? How will the kids and I live?”

Need to rant about your situation? Here’s a place where you can do that: Rave and Rant About Bankruptcy.  In fact there are lots of places online where you can talk about your experiences, good and bad. Take advantage of them.


  • “I’ll take anything. McDonald’s for minimum wage. At least I’ll be working.”
  • “I can’t pay it all now. Maybe we can work out a deal?”
  • “What if we get marriage counseling?”


  • “We’ll never get out of this hole. It’s hopeless.”
  • “How am I ever going to pay all these bills? It’s hopeless.”
  • “He’s really gone. It’s hopeless.”

Maybe it happened early on, maybe it took a while before you had suffered enough that you just didn’t want to take it any longer, but this is the point where most of you started to seriously consider filing a bankruptcy case. Experts often tell us that we can only operate in “crisis” mode - meaning constant emotional upheaval with no resolution - for about six weeks before it starts to seriously and perhaps permanently affect our physical, emotional and mental well-being.


  • “Bankruptcy may not be ideal, but at least we saved the house and the car."
  • "Bankruptcy may not be my first choice, but at least now I can breathe a little easier."
  • "Bankruptcy may not cure everything, but it will give us a fresh start."

You may not be there yet, and that’s okay. But you will, hopefully,​ sooner rather than later. In the next article in this series, we have some tips to get the juices flowing in the right direction:

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Dealing With Emotions, Part 2

For more articles in the series, see

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Introduction

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Dealing WIth Emotions, Part 1

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Ongoing Obligations

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Taking Stock of the Future

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Getting New Credit

Surviving and Thriving After Bankruptcy: Credit Reports