Bankruptcy is not something that happens to a single person or a business; it will have waves that ripple out and have unintended effects. And most of those ripples and effects are people who have a lot of questions.
Let’s keep with that wave analogy for a moment. Your bankruptcy and unmanageable debt make you the center point. The ripples will touch your immediate family and your extended family, who you support. It might affect your neighbors here in Orlando, Florida. In real terms, those far ripples might be of little significance to you, but sooner or later, someone may have some questions for you. Here’s some advice on how to handle them:
Honesty is the most powerful tool you may have in any difficult conversation, whether it is with your spouse or anyone else. You cannot manage your debts anymore. There is nothing shameful with that statement, and you aren’t alone. Hiding from it will hurt those you’re trying to protect.
Filing for bankruptcy means things will change. Often, it means things change for the better, what with the sudden decrease in pressure. Even a chapter 13 bankruptcy that allows for a person to reorganize debts and retain property forces a person to make real, drastic changes to their lifestyle. If your family wants to know what the future will look like or whether they can continue to do what they once did, the real answer is “maybe not.”
If your financial situation comes as a surprise to those closest to you, then you will need to offer them space and compassion to have whatever feelings they’re going to have. This doesn’t mean that you hid anything. Regardless, you might be the bearer of the bad news, which means being the one who deals with the reaction.
As you get further away from the center of ripples from your debt issues, you’ll find people with more and more frustrating reactions. Some people might unintentionally shame you for what’s happened. However, bankruptcy is a personal choice to save yourself and your family. That’s more important than anyone else’s opinion.
It is an act of personal strength to refuse shame. And you can do it.