In the past couple weeks we have seen tens of thousands of words written in major publications about the plight of retirees and others who depend on investments to support their golden years. Relatively little has been written about recovering from the emotional wounds that invariably accompany financial loss and insecurity. Most people associate the word grief primarily with death, but it actually applies to more than forty human loss experiences.
High on the list of emotion-producing losses are major financial changes. Fear is a prime motivator. Nothing creates more fear than the fear of financial insecurity. This is always true but becomes exponentially accurate for those who have retired from work and rely on investments and retirement funds for their daily bread and their ongoing sense of security. Events of the past ten months have joined to produce very strong emotions about our financial and physical security. The confluence of the current stock market/corporate confidence debacle with the lingering impact of September 11th have fostered a new and ubiquitous level of fear.
The fear that is produced by the combination of losses generates a wide range of feelings, which we refer to as a roller coaster of emotions. That language also fits the incredible highs and lows exhibited of late by the stock market and all its leading indicators. The fact that the real business indicators are stable and good has not stemmed the emotional tides being experienced by all.
Sadly, people’s emotions are not being addressed. In our society there is a tendency to try to redirect people’s naturally occurring emotions from their hearts to their intellects. Best example, "Don’t Feel Bad, She’s in a Better Place," said in an attempt to soothe. But it backfires because it is the griever who is not in a better place. Also, saying "Don’t Feel Bad, It’s Only Money," is not going to be very comforting to a senior whose earning days are behind, and whose emotions about life and lifestyle have been permanently altered or who are on the roller coaster of fear about what the future holds.
In our culture, the cradle is the ultimate symbol of safety, trust, and security. With it comes the image of a crying baby being soothed by the rocking motion and the attention of its caretakers. The baby may be having a little moment of sadness, a mini-grief, or fear over things we cannot see or comprehend. With adult grievers, rocking the cradle may not soothe them and it certainly will not restore their nest eggs. But listening to their feelings and recognizing their pain will help.