Photo by Asif Akbar
It all started at the end of January. My husband lost his job and our family of five, plus one cat, was suddenly without income. It would be nice if our cat could become an internet sensation and earn us some money, but alas, he doesn’t even flinch when the doves pass by him on their way to the water dish.
This job, which has lasted for more than thirteen years, has been slipping away from us for at least the last five. We didn’t know when the job would end, we only knew that it would. Even though we knew this, we weren’t quite ready for the shock of it all. We immediately went into recovery mode. We made sure we knew exactly where all of our money was, how much we had, and when and how much we could expect to receive in the coming weeks. The severance, which we were lucky to get, is gone. We’re receiving unemployment insurance, but that is less than one quarter of what we were earning. My family is helping me out, but, as grateful as I am, it will be better when we can stand on our own. We have been unemployed for just over six months now. The unemployment benefits will continue for 18 months.
We realized that I need to go to work, and that we have to put the kids into public school. It means the end, for now, of our homeschooling career. For me, this is huge. I have not been in the workforce for more than thirteen years. Resumes are different. Job hunting is different. Networking has taken on a whole new meaning. I am worried about how the kids would do in school. I am worried about the logistics of getting them to and from school while holding down a job. I am worried about how my energy would hold out.
Shortly after the job loss, I sank into a major depression. If you have never experienced this, it is one of the most terrifying things there is. I was barely able to get up, shower and get dressed. Without the boys in the house, I doubt I could have gotten out of bed at all. Because of them, I got up, got dressed and mimed my way through the day. My husband took over all the cooking and most of the cleaning. I lay on the bed or sat on the couch or at my desk and simply stared into space. I knew instinctively that I could not handle this alone. This was just too big. I decided to seek counseling and within 6 weeks, I started counseling at a place that offered a sliding scale.
Fast forward 7 weeks into my counseling. Things were looking up and I had a better grip on things. On the fourth Monday in May, I got a call from my Mom telling me that my Grandmother’s death was “imminent.” On Tuesday, I drove five hours to her home. I sat by her side for three days. She died while I was holding her hand on Friday. I had never known such devastation before. My Grandmother was as close to me as my Mother. She taught me how to survive with three rowdy boys. I spent summers as a child at her house, and when I went to college, I visited her on weekends. I spoke to her on the phone several times a week. She let me use all of her office supplies to make fleets of paper airplanes and “crafts.” She gave me the best bedroom in her house, with a big pink bed and an adjoining bathroom. It was a room fit for a princess. I adored my Grandmother.
This event yanked me forcefully backward. Someone had grabbed my hair and pulling me. My Grandfather had died a mere two years before, and I was still grieving for him. I fell back even more solidly into the depression. I felt choked, as if I was drowning. On the advice of my counselor, I immediately got on the waiting list for another counseling service that had a sliding scale and open ended counseling sessions. Ten sessions was not going to be enough.
Since then, we’ve had another death in the family – my late Grandfather’s sister. Luckily, there was not to be another funeral. I could not have handled that. Nevertheless, I traveled the five hours again to be with my family – to offer what comfort I could to my Great Uncle, my Mother, and my many cousins. Our family has lost and lost and lost these past two years.
My husband and I have not yet found employment. The kids are slated to start school in a little more than a week. Next week we must shop for the remainder of their school supplies. The air conditioner went out while the outside temperatures have hovered near 105. We had to buy two full sets of tires for the vehicles and replace the wheel bearings on the van. In case you didn’t know, that is an expensive repair.
Somehow, I’m still here. No one has been sick. The boys are happy and thriving. I just haven’t been able to write. I have had to sit still for a long time and in many ways, I’m still sitting. My Grandparents’ furniture is in my home, and my Mother is moving into their house. I continue to visit my counselor and my friends have helped to hold me up. For now, I sit still.